“On Getting Your Ducks in a Row” by Matthew King

Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2021: Editor’s Choice


Family by Gouri Prakash, photograph of ducks swimming in opposite directions

Image: “Family” by Gouri Prakash. “On Getting Your Ducks in a Row” was written by Matthew King for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2021, and selected as the Editor’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Matthew King


You’ll have to figure out what counts as ducks,
to start. It’s not as easy as you’d think:
our schemes of things are always in a flux;
the borders of our kinds expand and shrink.
Once satisfied you’ve got your ducks defined,
you’ll make your head hurt trying to decide
how best they’d be arranged—should they be lined
up bill to tail, or maybe side by side?
And if you get them set, next thing you know,
they’ll find their feet and waddle all around,
before, parading to the pond below,
they plop, one by one, from the slippery ground.
Birds will go where their brains will have them go.
Maybe let them get themselves in a row.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
October 2021, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “Matthew King is a talented nature photographer himself (check out the galleries on his website), which might have given him an advantage in getting inside the minds of these ducks. Either way, this sonnet is delightful, which is something few poems manage. I almost feel like a duck myself as they plop into that pond one by one.”

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