They walk slowly, each step
measured as to both length and cadence.
The need not speak, they have
long been synchronous, now cannot
avoid being so without great effort.

They say nothing, words
have grown superfluous,
and would only interrupt
the slow procession
of the clouds, the ducks swimming
against the river’s flow, the birds
playing tag, each
claiming to be it in turn.
Each day they turn together,
at different spots
along the river walk, and
return home, amazed
at all that is different
on the journey back.


Only the ducks remain,
and they aren’t saying.
Ask a Muscovy where
all the ibis have gone
and he will say, “good riddance,
they’re ugly and get in the way.”
Ask of the pelicansĀ 
and they will remind you
that now there are more fish,
and they’ll be back eventually,
but things are much calmer
in their absence.
Anyway, they say,
the moorhens are still here,
but thank heavens the coots
have gotten a room
to do their mating this year.
And for a moment, in this senior
community, we think
they are speaking of us.


There are three ducks on the pond,
two female, one male,
and none says anything
that is remotely profound.
Half a world away, a man
carefully parks a truck
at the edge of a crowded
Baghdad market and
walks quickly away.
Three ducks swim side by side
by side around the pond,
every now and again
plunging their heads into the water.
In Baghdad, safe
within the Green Zone,
the General says life
is slowly improving.
The truck by the market
does not explode, it
has run out of gasoline.
Stop and ask yourself
which of these three ducks
is the chaperone?

Chaperone appeared in The Right to Depart: New and Selected Poems, Plain View Press (2008). Copies of the book are available for $10 at