"Duck for Two" and "The Same Man"

Duck for Two

Hunter could teach Casanova a thing or two about seduction.
He has the ultimate lure, a duck call he can blow
and hack into the rhythm of a merganser's heart.
 
He's up to his knees in marsh water, rifle slung across
his left elbow, that plastic marvel pressed between his lips.
One puff, the reeds stir. Second puff, cattails tremble.
 
And then, from deep in the swamp, his cry is echoed
by some unsuspecting duck. Love is in the air, just
the way death planned it. Instinctively, the fowl
 
glides toward the sound. The hunter raises his rifle,
lines up his eye and crosshairs, cocks the trigger.
He gives his duck call one more gust of air.
 
He reckons if he was duck he'd be having wet dreams
by this. The eager creature paddles into view. The
hunter fires, one good shot between the feathers
 
into that near-bursting heart. He wades deeper into
the waters to claim his prize. He carries it off to
his truck with a new-found respect for the urge to mate.
 
Tonight, it will be duck l’orange for his lover.
He'll tell her how he took it out in one clear shot.
But mostly he'll boast about how he fooled that bird
 
into believing it was going to be its lucky day.
That's what he'll be serving at his table:
the cooked flesh of trick and triumph.
 
That's what's she'll be swallowing tonight.

 


 

The Same Man

It's the bleach smell that overpowers me,
a cleansing that goes deeper than dirt,
half-believes it can wipe clean the stains in people,
But it reminds me too of sterility.
If this were a maternity hospital,
I still couldn't believe there are babies being born.
 
There's no real air in any of these wards.
Everything is permeated with well-meaning poisons.
I stand at the window but the outside
may as well be a million miles away.
The glass is like an officious head-nurse
barring the way of the sunlight.
 
My mother is holding an old man's hand.
They speak tons of words but in a precious whispered way.
He's like an old boat run aground.
He's lost sight in his left eye.
and his breathing is harsh.
It's the first time I've witnessed someone
struggling to hold onto life.
I'm thinking there must be some value in it
even when there's nothing to enjoy.
 
Most of my memories of him are second hand.
My mother fills me in with a series of gentle exposures:
a man in his best Sunday suit,
a fishing expedition with a young girl tagging along,
two flat tires on a winding country road
and especially merry go round rides,
with his hands holding her fast to a painted horse.
 
I'm left with the motionless man in the hospital bed.
She has him at many ages and can always choose his prime.
He's the same man
but he's never the same.

 

 

John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Hawaii Pacific Review, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in Blueline, Willard and Maple and Clade Song.

 

Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 - 22:40