On a misty day in March, 2019 I watched two mallards standing on a fallen tree in the rain-swollen Carmel River. I took this photo and wrote a poem about the moment.

Watching Mallards

A twisted tree trunk rests sideways

On the edge of the rain-swollen Carmel River.

I, the bit player in this proceeding,

Hail this perch for two mallards

From safe ground.

The hen stretches her neck downward

To gauge the current.

The drake, unmoved by the fast moving waters, looks in my direction,

Do mallards always look calm?

I rejoice in the time taken

To observe this perfection,

My anxiety reduced to a flicker

Of black and white memories

From walking among Manhattan skyscrapers,

Where time was an expense

And my sighting of birds

Limited to pigeons on building ledges.

But now I’ve been given the luxury

Of a wondrous afternoon,

Unaware of how long I’ve been here,

Only now realizing we are all standing.

Do ducks really stand?

I do when waiting for a taxi.

With short legs and wide web feet,

They are certain to outlast me.

They could jump in

And join the sea gulls riding the current

Until it empties into the ocean.

Are they waiting for me to make the first move?

I think they know I will leave first.

Or, maybe they don’t care.

          —

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