As a boy, Nathaniel careened around the yard,
drooling, braying, fist in his mouth, always running;
the family duck always chasing him, always watching him.
When it caught him, its beady black eyes bright,
it puffed up, rocked its head like a pendulum on its spindle of a neck,
honked, pecked him in the chest.
His mother always came out to beat the duck off him
with a rake or broom, but the duck always gave chase,
hateful in its blind, dumb way.
The family duck later flew away.
Nathaniel later flew to a desert,
humped through it with a platoon.
He came home with one leg,
his upper lip curled like burned paper.
He told stories of the family duck:
of how he said it hid in a cave, grew like water.
After Nathaniel said the King called him,
he told his wife he was going hunting.
When he returned, he filed his neighbors
into the living room and told them:
he approached the duck’s cave holding just a spear.
The family duck drew from the shadows of its cave,
its great neck twisting like a serpent,
balancing the ship of its skull on a pendulous wave.
He slew it with just one throw, severed the sinewy neck;
its blood-soaked bill, blank eyes
staring up at him from the ground;
its useless body,
now just the color of wood and snow,
bloodying the side of the cliff face.
He brought the head home with him,
clutching it by its iridescent green feathers,
hung it above his mantle.
His little wife shook in a corner.
His neighbors blinked, never saying a word,
filing out just the way they came.
Nathaniel motioned to the empty mantle,
told his wife whose mouth hung open,
Make sure to pick the cobwebs
free from its ever watchful eyes.