The Mallard
by James Kerr

We spotted her downstream
while out exploring after school:
A mallard perched amongst
the reeds along the creekbank.
Rust-brown head and body
flecked with black, lacking
the drake's bold green and white,
but nonetheless a duck:
game, there for the pursuit.

Stealthily, so as not to spook,
we drew close, trees as shields,
and from the opposite bank
we lobbed rocks at her.
What a thing this would be,
to carry home a duck by its neck
like those my father shot in his hunts.
My mother would cook it up,
set it on the table braised and browned:
Thanksgiving in April.

The rocks missed. The duck didn't fly.
We threw again. Still she didn't fly.
Wounded, perhaps? Winged
by a hunter during the winter?
Still, she could run.
She could enter the muddy current
and swim downstream out of range.
Stupid bird! But nonetheless
a duck. We threw again, and again.
A rock struck her on the side.
She lifted her pencil-thin leg,
shook it like a woman shakes
a broom. Still she didn't fly.
Someone (we all claimed the throw)
hit her square on the head.
She toppled, flapping madly
like a grounded toy airplane.

We ran whooping down the bank,
skipping across the stream t
like stones to where she lay
broken and bloodied in the reeds.
And there we found the eggs:
six of them, speckled-brown,
cushioned in a nest lined with down.
We laid our fingers on them,
still warm like rolls in a blanket.

The sun shone fiercely in its set.
We threw the body into the weeds
and went home.

Copyright © 2022 by Red River Review. First Rights Reserved. All other rights revert to the authors.
No work may be reproduced or republished without the express written consent of the author.