REBECCA MORGAN FRANK
after Elizabeth Bishop and Morgan Mayback
His appearance is theatrical–
begins as a wholesome puppet show
made of his wings shadowed across
the floor, on the roof of the lamp.
Soon he manages to expand, take over
the bedroom, his wings darkening
as he moves dragonly towards us,
his delicate beauty masked in projection.
He is the biggest creature to haunt us.
He is astonishing in his grandeur
until the histrionic snap of the window shade
erases him. Somewhat. Small, he floats.
Vaucanson’s Digesting Duck (1739)
Even the past’s evolving future
is scatological by nature.
A copper digesting bird
quacks, eats pellets
then passes them, then
gives birth to Baby
Alive and the colonoscopy–
for hundreds of years now
we’ve witnessed the stomach
in motion, a machinery
at work, more magical
with science than without.
We had to imitate it
in order to see inside ourselves.
For when is a duck a duck?
If it looks like a duck, quacks
like a duck, walks like a duck.
Everything we know about
the digesting duck
is from an imitation.
We’ve been trying to get back
to the real thing.
Soon the child
discovers the doll’s digestion
is just an act, not an action,
but a sleight of works–
a secret compartment of shit
kept the duck in business.
Vaucanson’s duck was a horse
of an entirely different color.
When is a duck, a horse?
Everything a metaphor
of our own making.
While outside, ducks move
across the pond. See how they
dive, shake, navigate return.