Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Duck that Showed Up

I really wanted to see a canvasback today. Or a redhead, its smaller look-alike cousin. Or at least a hooded merganser where I always see them, in Black's Nook, the little pond off Fresh Pond. But Black's Nook had too much ice for hoodies. And try as I would to make the little flocks I saw on Fresh Pond into canvasbacks or redheads, I can't argue with the facts. They were ring-necked ducks. A perfectly fine winter duck to see. Nice glossy black head, handsome grey sides, and the telltale ring around the bill. But add another color to the ensemble, like the chestnut head of the canvasback and, I don't know, it quickens the blood. Anyway, the little window goes to the ring-necked duck, for showing up. And second place goes to the canvasback and redhead, who couldn't be bothered. But just to encourage them, here's a poem I wrote about them a few years ago.

The Redhead and the Canvasback

A redhead and a canvasback
one crisp December day
swam up to one another
in the middle of a bay.

“Incredible!” the redhead marveled,
paddling round and gazing.
“The red, the white, the black! Why,
the resemblance is amazing!

Do you suppose it’s possible
that in another eon
we shared a common ancestor,
some duck we can agree on?

It’s such a nice coincidence!
Two species so synonymous!
The black, the red, the white! You know,
that pattern's not the commonest!”

The canvasback looked down his bill
with something like disgust.
“First of all, my head,” he said,
“is chestnut. Yours is rust.

Secondly, my back is white,
while yours is clearly gray.
And, finally, our profiles
are as close as night and day.

I am a drake of longer lines;
your build is somewhat tubby.
My bill is dark and aquiline
and yours, two-tone and stubby.

As for a common lineage,
your research is misleading.
These so-called similarities
are rather...surface-feeding.”

The redhead rocked upon the waves
and stared out at the shore
He thought about what he had heard
and thought a little more.

Then, turning to the canvasback,
he shook his rusty head.
“It’s unbelievable!” he quacked.
The white! the black! the red!”

No comments:

Post a Comment