Buffleheads

 

A mild November afternoon; the lake mirrors heavy skies;

And on the water an early Christmas gift has been opened

From its silver wrappings: buffleheads, a flock of some fifty,

A Yuletide delivery of these handsome diminutive ducks,

If not from the workshop at the North Pole, at least the Hudson Bay.

And they are perfect in everything but their given name

On a backdrop of late-autumn marsh and golden tamarack,

The drakes in their immaculate contrast of white and black,

Their yin and yang of day and night, like freshly painted dominoes,

Like an exhibit of heirlooms from a Vanderbilt toy chest.

They float with their bills tucked under their wings, while the females

Among them, of almost solid black, defer to their visual splendor—

The splendor they seek and perpetuate with undoubtable pride.

 

That almost unnatural charm; the flock’s exquisite silence;

And the polished choreography of these miniature fowl

When a dozen glide to the shallows and dive for fish,

Each so neatly plunging from sight, one after the next

In rapid succession, as though they were joined by a cord!

A moment below, and then in sequence they pop to the surface,

Waggling their tails, refreshed, awaiting the cue for the next dive.

 

An early gift of a stopover of buffleheads, southbound,

Destined for their winter waters; by morning, they’ll have flown on.

And what is our legacy without this inheritance,

This recurring gift of the migrants on their flyways?

The beholding of these sojourners on their ageless odysseys?

A promise nearly as old as life, and now only ours to keep.

 

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