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
in 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.
—from Rattle #26, Winter 2006
Rattle Poetry Prize Honorable Mention
Diana Goetsch: “In 1995, when I first wrote about the game Duck Duck Goose in ‘Recess,’ all I had was a girl who couldn’t make up her mind. Then last winter I was struck by Keira Knightly’s portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice—nearly condemned to live alone because she said no to a proposal—and I knew I needed to insert the teacher, as a troubled witness to the girl. So the poem was ten years in the making.” (web)