I go down to the creek to make sure the nest underneath the foliage
is shielded from the rain, and I get close enough to see the new
family’s porch glutted with pots and pans to watch the leakage even
though this is the lightest spell we’ve had in weeks. Dad says they’ll
go easy as the sun does if the weather keeps like this.
Kill the ones you
, he says, but I tell him the ducklings belong to their mothers.
I collect the feathers from amongst the moss and bark chips like I’m
removing the lining of a womb.
Sometimes I think about how the feathers on their breasts
remind me of pins in my mum’s pin cushion and how they must
hurt. Dad says he’ll buy me the boat I want if I bring him enough
down feathers to stuff the mattress or the boots or whatever he’s
making. At moments his heart is as bitter and waterlogged as the
days, my dad tells me I look just like my mum. He warms my cold
hands in his and I stare at my colder feet. When surroundings start
to dismember, it seems moods tend to do the same. I don’t have my
mum’s face. I have my own.
Dad reckons the family from the city are
chopping down the cedar trees and replacing the space with a stable.
That fence is bloody atrocious
, he said, kicking the paling with his dirty
boots. I straightened it as he turned away to light a cigarette.
After they settled in, I couldn’t find no more nests near the yard.
I crawled along the prints of webbed feet and felt as small as the
ducks would, with their waddle that would empty a pot of water on
their backs just from spills along the way, and tail ends fettered by
coagulating frost. You’ve got to gather the first lot of feathers during
the incubation period, then go back for the rest when the young
have vacated the nest. It’s no good if the ducklings are still there.
They’ll peer at you with beady eyes wondering why you’re staving
the only warmth they know. If damp feathers are left too long
though, they will mildew. Other times I drip my special medicine in
the beaks of the newborn, by night as they are quelled by sleep.
Death swallows them whole. Their stiff feathers and small bones
aren’t threats to its infinite throat.
The dew from last night sealed everything in a fragile layer of ice.
The black soil cracked under my feet, as if I was standing at the
place where dawn caressed dusk and it broke. A storm is a storm is
the rise and fall of the creek’s heaving chest, but it scared the
newcomers with the prospect of flooding. They want to drain it,