A ring of children seated Indian style,
a girl deciding which head to tap
as she orbits them in her pretty dress
saying Duck Duck Duck Duck Duck.
Every boy wants to be the goose,
to bolt up and run down this girl
before she makes it around
to the spot he vacated. Once
they saw her trip and fall, exposing
a lovely backside covered in lace.
Maybe that is why their heads rise
like charmed snakes as she passes
saying Duck Duck Duck Duck Duck
annoying the girls in the circle, who frown,
and attracting now the attention
of their teacher, leaning against a tree,
bringing her gaze down from the clouds
where she had been pondering two men--
the one she recently broke up with
filling her with regret about the much
better, more beautiful one from college.
Now she is twenty-nine, on perhaps
the last warm day of September,
the smartest, prettiest girl in the class
is going Duck Duck Duck Duck Duck
is an endless left hand turn,
and she can't figure out whether
the girl is powerful or helpless,
as she blinks back tears and blows
the whistle to end this.
--2006 Rattle Poetry Prize Honorable Mention