Mallards, Mounted on a Chimney Wall, poetry by D. R. James at

Mallards, Mounted on a Chimney Wall

Mallards, Mounted on a Chimney Wall

written by: D. R. James


I’ve a vague idea how they ended up
these two hundred lovely feet from shore,
this side of the tall double panes, veering

over the owners’ photos propped on a mantle,
over an old golden retriever twitching now
on his sheepskin rug. So I doubt it was due

to the wrenching updraft depicted
in their implausible contortions, the bunched
shoulders of their posed wings.

As mild chili simmers and Mozart saws
an easy soundtrack, they strive flat
against fine brick, forever matching

their sapphire chevrons, the shriveled orange
leaves of their feet. Meanwhile,
the drake’s clamped beak and his

wild dark eye seem to be carving
today’s northwest wind as if to permit
his trailing hen her subtle luxury

of squinting—as if, in wrestling her fixed
pin of fate, she entertains the greatest questions:
Why are we here? Where are we going?

Will we ever arrive? And, in a far softer thought
that has me perched on this hearthside chair,
my ear tiptoed to her dusty brain:

Why does it have to be me?

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