The Last Duck


From the Archive


Marcia Slatkin’s poem, “The Last Duck” appeared in our Summer 1991 issue. Her latest collection is Not Yet: A Care-Giving Collage

We trapped him—
the dignified male
with the graceful neck—
and held him down
till drowned. His death

was ugly, His heart
wouldn’t let his wings
go limp. They hit
the lip of the tub like fists.
There were long, slow movements
when we could have let him live.
Then his beak bubbled death,
and we didn’t. That day

silence stilled the yard.
The ducks didn’t fly, drink, eat,
or bob their mobile necks to speak,
but stood, breath-stopped as stone.

In time,
they sought the boulder
he’d used as throne,
exhaled sighs
like oboe notes,

and the gargling roll
from the root of their throats
flooded through
each bite we chewed
of this last duck
we killed for food.