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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 12, Number 3, September 2018

Glenn G. Coats
Carolina Shores, North Carolina, USA

Romeo and Juliet

Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.
                                      ~ William Shakespeare

The lots are long and narrow, one after another like keys on a piano. Houses back up to a finger of water. Grass carp keep the vegetation down; herons poke along the shoreline for fish. A pair of resident ducks stay on through the seasons.

I see them at dusk as they waddle alongside the garage. The female, lame, walks awkwardly on land. Her black and green colors have faded into white patches. She pokes the lawn for insects while the beetle-green male keeps a vigilant eye out for intruders. The Cayuga ducks may have escaped from a local farm or were dropped here for decoration. There are hundreds of wa-terways, but this one is their home.

white wings
a new blue
in the crayon pack

In the fall, migrating geese cover the watercourse like pepper on eggs. They honk and pump heads as their neck feathers shake.

This morning, the female duck is caught in the center, surrounded by hundreds of Canadian geese. The male swims toward her, moving through the gauntlet as the larger birds strike him with bills and wings. He makes his way to her and stays there as band after band takes off and rises into the sky. Through it all, the pair of ducks never utter a sound.

twilit swallows
red light softens
in the slough

Once a year, the town sends a crew out to clean up around the waterway. Chain saws blare as they chop pampas and muhly grass almost to the ground, mow banks clean of brush and weeds. Plant pansies near benches to provide color in winter. When the work is finished, the ducks are left without any shelter, vulnerable, prey to coyote, foxes, cats, and dogs.

I watch the ducks on days when gales create waves and push the watercourse into a river. They bob on the water with heads tucked under wings, drifting and drifting, until all settles down.

hole in the clouds—
again the cormorant
comes up empty

December. The temperature drops, stays below freezing for weeks on end. Ice forms along the shallows then spreads throughout the tarn. The ducks confine themselves to low bushes that offer a break from the wind. Each morning, the male flails at the ice with his bill, smacking it again and again until he opens a small space for the pair to swim, a spot to poke their heads under water. As day passes, the ducks find open places along the shoreline, where they lie still as stones and gather warmth from the sun.

shell islands
in the tidal river
trees with wings

The male is beginning to dapple like his mate, patches of white on his back. The pair has lived on the tarn for eight years—a lifetime for Cayuga ducks. The female seldom leaves the water; watches as the male raids under bird feeders and plucks slugs from lawns. He chases away mallards that come close to her. Do they mourn like elephants or crows when one passes away? Do they know about leaving, about saying goodbye?

from the bank
an egret’s neck rises
into rain



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