Poem – John Ridland

Night Song for my Wife to Sing at Dawn, with Ducks

(Back in Christchurch, fifty years after she left)

 

Solo: My Wife
I sleep while he wakes to write
these thoughts for me. My thoughts
sleep with me through the night –
the remarkables, the fraughts –
 
carried along on my dreams
like leaves on the wind driving
or ducks on the clean stream’s
surface, ducking and diving,
 
Up tails all! bills dibbling
for grub from the bottom, food
for thought, surfacing, nibbling
bugs on the bank – all good.
 
All food is good for thought,
without it – well, we sink,
dux, lux, deluxe, all caught
sin mud thick as a wink.
 
Chorus: We Ducks
Wherever we ducks fly to,
to be shotgunned out of the sky, 
plucked, roasted, dropped in a stew,
or chopped in a stir-fry,
 
we do what ducks must do
to make the system whole:
we quack, we waddle through
our selvage, like the soul,
 
we plop with great relief
onto the water, freed
from the awkwardness of grief,
cats’ claws, hawks’ beaks, raw greed.
 
But ducks, like hunters, die.
Our Ducky Deity
plucks us out of the sky,
breaking our beating V,
 
as the Lord God has been known
to pluck an airplane
full of selves full-grown,
or half-, or less. More pain,
 
and no more pain soon follows
among the watchers – lovers
and losers, swifts and swallows.
Hawklike, the fraught soul hovers
 
in wind and rain, and sings
Hey ho, the wind and the rain,
in chorus with all things
bright, beautiful – the chain
 
of beings tingles cheerly
enlivened by the snow
which fills the woods that sheerly
the soul plods to and fro
 
through, until it can reach
the sunny, wind-free zone,
God’s Zone, where, on the beach,
each grain lies, on its own,
 
till the tide comes neaping in
to settle it with its mates,
bedded down and sleeping in,
together, with their fates.
 
 
 
Solo: My Wife
I’m amazed, being here again,
awake at 5 A.M.
to a southerly’s wind and rain,
still able to say I am.
 
I am here and wide alive,
through lace curtains gazing out
to one yellow streetlamp, five
white, wind shaking trees about.
 
I am lucky to be intact,
hearty and hale of mind
and body and soul – in fact,
I thrive. Life has been kind
 
to me and my first mate
(my only, to tell the truth) –
barring that decade Fate
mauled us, claw and tooth.
 
Finale. Ensemble: Wife and Ducks
And so a gray sky rises,
the lamps, yellow and white,
switch off. Endless surprises
await, alarm, excite
 
the census of the senses
to part-songs of the whole.
Out of the night commences
the long day of the soul.

 

John Ridland

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