Poetry at Sangam



DUCK POEMS by Vijay Nambisan

1 Buoyancy

Ducks have, in water, a feeling that they are
Not quite all there. That’s why they keep looking down
To see if their nether parts are still of the same
Feather, that they’re still together.
                                                      I too, sometimes
Catch myself looking down to see if my feet
Are still on earth.
                           And so when I look up
I return where I belong, after long separation.


2 Original Sin

Ducks have, in water, all they really
Need, food and drink and exercise
And a tight refuge. Strange to think
They only cannot lay their eggs there
But must land.
              Why would any sane creature
Forsake all amniotic contentment
For these dry and barren bits of earth?
Why did our mothers’ mothers climb
Out of the ocean?
                          Perhaps there is
In all of us, some primeval notion
That suffering is preferable to bliss.


3 Double Bill

Ducks have, in water – but only clear water
And in good light – a kind of double life.
The webs vanish, and they are doubly there
Upside down, beaks and ducks’ eyes.
                                                    Only they
When they look down can see both halves,
The webbed and the unwebbed.
                                                    A duck
Maybe thinks she has reason to hide
What she does with her feet. She must float
For no one must know she can walk on water.


4 Mach Duck

Ducks have, in water, another medium
To communicate in. Do they know that sound
Travels faster down there, and speak as quickly
As they think, or do they simply blow bubbles
And look silly?
                        I should like to know, but
Water is another medium for me, too,
And if I stooped and immersed my head
I should think of something else entirely,
Probably having nothing to do with ducks.


5 L’apres Midi d’un Canard

Ducks have, in water, a visible class
And grace they completely lack on land.
Do they feel it, to be hypocrites,
To shrug off the clumsy Quasimodo walk
And slip noiselessly into Nijinsky?

Well, hardly Nijinsky; but how easily
They lure the viewer into hyperbole
Just by stepping off, as if they did not know
That turbid, weed-choked pond contained
All they had forgotten of their fate.