Ducks

The New Republic

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JUNE 23, 2011

Ducks

Gasoline smell on my hands, perfume
From the generator’s toothless mouth,
Opening swallow from the green hose,
Sweet odor from the actual world.

There’s an old Buddhist saying I think I read one time:
Before Enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.
After Enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.
The ducks, who neither carry nor chop,

Understand this, as I never will,
Their little feet propelling them, under the water,
Serene and stabilized,
                                    from the far side of the pond
Back to the marsh grasses and cattails.

I watch them every night they’re there.
Serenitas. I watch them.
Acceptance of what supports you, acceptance of what’s
Above your body,
                             invisible carry and chop,

Dark understory of desire
Where we should live,
                                     not in the thrashing, dusk-tipped branches—
Desire is anonymous,
Motoring hard, unswaying in the unseeable.

This poem originally ran in the July 14, 2011, issue of the magazine. 

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