Water’s Edge by Joe Amaral

I came upon a creek,
following deer trail scampering by
fire-swirled poison oak, dapper sycamore
and bone smooth cottonwood

I heard mallards, snowy egrets
and my favorite, silverblack coots,
lounging in shallow water as if
they were toweled old men at a sauna

What surprised me was the angel-feathered body
guarded by a hunchbacked hawk
glaring back at me like a guilty vampire atop
his hapless victim, pecking at its beanpole neck

The bird of prey blasted into the trees, perching
on a branch, angrily observing my approach
Beside the shore of moss, mud and stone
lay supine a juvenile duck with a grotesquely

twisted head, its webbed feet pedaling
midair like an upturned bicycle
Its agonal, guppy breathing and distantly dim
flaxen eyes clutching my dutiful heart

It was barely alive, a dollop of blood upon its throat
Turkey vultures double and triple looped above me,
so many there must have been bigger game to ply
I sighed and stepped over the poor gasping creature

It was able to crane its crooked neck and regard me,
beak opening and closing in broken respiration,
akin to a hatchling beckoning wormy regurgitation
But I could only offer it reincarnation so I stomped

my foot down on its head as hard as I could
A crepitus of sound of sharp gravel cleaved the sky
the same moment the hawk burst out the foliage
and flew away, chasing the soul only it could see

Joe Amaral splits his time spelunking around the California central coast as a paramedic and stay-at-home dad to two saucy little girls.  His poetry and short stories have appeared in awesome places around the world.  Joe also won the 2014 Ingrid Reti Literary Award.

2 thoughts on “Water’s Edge by Joe Amaral

  1. marydudley

    I’m there, right with you, at this remarkable scene.

    But help me with this–on the bank, a juvenile duck [lay]? right?

    not [lie], correct?

    typo? purposeful unusual conjugation of that verb to lie? if so, how come?

    And wow! the hawk in pursuit of the soul–wonderful!


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