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.


REBECCA MORGAN FRANK is the author of three collections of poetry: Sometimes We’re All Living in a Foreign Country (Carnegie Mellon 2017); The Spokes of Venus (Carnegie Mellon 2016); and Little Murders Everywhere, shortlisted for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her poems have appeared such places as The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Guernica, and the Harvard Review. She is the Jacob Ziskind Poet in Residence at Brandeis University and co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online literary magazine