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Surrounded by ice, the waterfowl honk and holler;
they wheel and sleep and feed.
My harbor ritual: flocking with the gulls,
geese, and grebes, the scaup, the swans, and scoters,
coots, and canvasbacks, the mallards, and mergansers,
reheads, ring-necks, and ruddies, the buffleheads, and blacks,
the pintails. Stunned speechless, I scan
the bestial avain mass unencumbered
by hiring practices, alarm clocks, call-waiting, and endless e-mail.
I don't believe the birds plan their dinners.
Ah no, they dive and dunk. They are not alcoholic;
they never step on scales; they don't gamble with money,
and they never analyze sex. As they bob on the rise and fall of the current,
they don't consider it a weakness to sleep during the day
or interrupt another's overbearing speech. I can attest
that they don't bother with grammar and never try to rhyme their o's.
The glare from their white world strains
my aging eyes, but I forget my life when I am
with them; I see uncommon colors; my feet begin to float,
and a guttural song rises from my breast.
Eventually a flurry of snowflakes pelts
my purple coat, fog my lenses; I jump,
startled by a copper-colored carp leaping
out of the inky flow. The splash fans
and falls. I walk to the car and drive home,
honking every chance I get.
Carolyn Kieber Grady teaches in the English department at Fredonia State College. She is a longstanding member of Penelope, a Fredonia area writers group.

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