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Monday, October 15, 2007


by David Chorlton

Will you mind my tools for a while
the lady with the carrier says
I have to catch a duck.
She’s been clipping the vegetation
on the bank of a pond
to reach a drake she thinks is caught
in twine. Thank you. Thank you.
So we stand beside her shears and long handled net
while she treks to a Mexican mallard
struggling in the mud
until she returns with the bird
under her arm. All she needs is
an injection. I take her home. I come back
in half an hour. Forty minutes at the most.
We promise to wait and meanwhile scan
the shallows for slackened wings
or drooping necks. An hour flies by
before a man stops to ask what we have seen.
A yellow warbler and a flock
of peach faced lovebirds. Then I ask
him if he’d mind staying here a while
to relieve us. Saving ducks? he scoffs,
You can’t save ducks. Botulism kills ‘em off
in hundreds. Nothing you can do.
He lifts his binoculars to follow
a black phoebe. It seems like stopping wars,
this rescue undertaking. Nothing
we can do. Bombs, missiles, torture,
generals giving orders, and politicians
talking up the mission. There’s a melancholy
hanging in the air, until the duck lady
returns all out of breath and
struggling in her second language
to say I got to her early enough. She’ll be alright now.
I don’t know how many but one at a time I can do.

David Chorlton lives in Phoenix, writes and paints and keeps track of local wildlife. His newest book, The Porous Desert, was published this summer by FutureCycle Press, and testifies to his having internalised the desert during the past twenty-nine years. Some of his art work can be seen at