Look at the emerald of their necks, two drakes propped each on one leg

on the wet grass and the fat brown hen squashed in a ball like doughy bread.

Their feathers long and neat, well-groomed as though about to be wed; there is that

awkwardness of wandering minds, I think. Thin rubbery legs pat the pissy grass


in the slow warm glow of afternoon haze, the fat-gut duck in the late buttery light

sits still by the crab-apple tree, motionless. These aren’t mother’s garden ornaments.

Duck: quack. There’s a third one.


I often went as a boy knobbly-kneed to feed the ducks with pieces of stale bread.

They were the king and queen and we the inane peasants with offerings.

Our beloved monarchy; to the ducks: your highness.


One thousand fields crossed lands flown over, landed in pitch and green-brown water

somewhere across county lines; it has rendered them unreal things. Garden ornaments.

I don’t believe in them as though god were everywhere like dust.


Flapping and yelling, my arms no wings; they wouldn’t move. I heard them quack again.

Look at them. See their green faces and the surprising blue speculum, their chests

pushed out as though to show they have a beating heart too. Nature had not blessed me

but pushed me aside. The next thing I knew they were gone.


I checked for eggs; maybe I could experience this again, but the light had gone.

A cool dusk flew over, their invisible shapes now cold wet memories:

green as grass, brown as soil, yellow shoehorn bill sending back funny wild sounds.

One of the dogs had its scent. It circled the garden, smelling the past.


Michael Holloway