Duck Business, A Poem by Chris Russell

The mallards would scoff down bread with their long, flat beaks.

My grandparents would give me a slice

and I’d break it up

and toss it out to them.

I appeared to want the duck to eat out of my hand,

but I think really I wanted the duck to eat me out of it.

I also remember a duck from another pond,

one where, when I was a teenager,

I threw a stick for a golden retriever

that was always hanging around.

I made sure the stick landed near the duck.

The dog would run into the water, and voila,

one day, the dog emerged from the pond

holding the duck in its teeth,

it’s wing dripping blood on the ground.

The duck was honking constantly.

Mostly I think it was in shock, both the duck and I, I think.

But the truth is I wasn’t conscious at all.

I was in another life and time,

crouching behind a giant pitcher plant

armed with a poison sling,

while a T-Rex sniffed at the air nearby.

The park manager covered the poor duck with a towel

and drove it to the vet,

and I never saw the dog again.

The duck made a recovery and returned to the pond.

I wasn’t allowed near it anymore. Lesson learned.

But I think the real lesson of all that duck business

was about some eternal hunting energy,

that, while it catapulted me across and back through time

into ancient tribes who killed for food

using decoys that appeared like every day play,

it also shouldered its way up and over intelligence

and into these binoculars

which I thought I’d want to use for capturing images of birds,

but which have ended up in this junk drawer

to remind me to get out of my own way.

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