The Mallard in My Pool; Funeral for a Frog; The Clam; First Look; Hawk and Salamander


If you only knew how

I wished I had your courage—

that ability to stand

stoically in the storm, un-

moved by the pounding rain, the

heady hiss of a strong soggy

wind, not a flounce in your feathers.

You turn to it as if it were

the summer sun—hey there

Sunshine—your blue-green face

bathing in the brooding clouds,

the clackety clack of drops

nearly hard as hail but still

rain. Still steady streaming rain.

I watch you through closed doors,

my nose flat against the streaked

glass, wishing I had your grace,

wishing I could slip as easily

into the pool and glide so

elegantly in the torrent—

as if it were nothing.

Oh, to plop myself in the midst

of a chaotic world without

worry, knowing I could always

fly away, find shelter somewhere!

How I would strut and swagger

naked in the squall, wagging my

tail feathers—so regal I am in the rain!


Single file we tread,

silently up the hill

like the ants we were then,

one-two, one-two, marching

hushed and determined

on a mound of brown grass

turning green.

Below, the little kids skip rope

on the cracked sidewalk,

singing merrily life but

a dream and for a moment,

we stop and watch them play.

The sprinkler rotates: tick-a-

tick, tick-a-tick, to the tinny

roll of a drummer’s beat,

tinkling over our sandaled

feet and splattering our

foreheads with an oiled water

oh so holy.

We blink as we pass, heads

high, hands clasped in reverie,

faces posed solemn and sad

like the ones on TV, watching

flag-draped coffins fade into

the static of a snowy screen.

We follow froths of petunias

and dry-mouthed impatiens, and

this time we don’t look back.

Not at the row of mini flags

muddied brown at the curb or

the oaks with their frayed yellow

ribbons flapping in the breeze.

We don’t see the cars that come

and go, the black limousine.

We march past trumpet lilies

keening in the warm wind, their

rusty tufts of pollen hanging

by threads unseen, unaware

of the coming rain, or how

with a whisper and a soft blow

there would be nothing left to flower.

Had I looked up I would have

noticed her—there

                        —do you see her?

sitting on the curb in her new

black dress, legs wide, fingers doodling

in the street sand?

—Do you see her

look of longing? Watching us as

her mother, her father, all

except of course her dead brother,

sidle into the limo? Her palm pressing

flat against the tinted glass

as if she could leave this

imprint, this part of her here, with us?

I didn’t.

I didn’t see her at all.

At eight and newly communed,

I wore my tiara like

a high priestess, my white-gloved

hands cradling a small satin

prayer book, white cape swishing

behind me in the summer

sun, behind the pallbearer

who carried the shoebox to

the open grave dug between two yews.

You see, I forgot, it was her frog too.


I swallow you

whole, alive—

You a conscious

being, clinging

desperately to

the inner folds

of a life not

completely lived;

reluctant witness

to the side of me

I’ll never see,

and can only imagine.

Ours is a symbiotic

love, mutual

in its bounty—

like the blue-green

algae that lives

on your lips;

a give and take:

You eat me, I eat you.

But you know I need more.

So you surrender.

Slipping into the brine,

this pit of a cloistered soul

so desperate for your spirit.

You know what it means for me—

what I need—

to be whole. And what that means

for us.


My daughter globs on mascara before

first class, unaware of the hanging man

swinging beside her front porch.

When she’s done

screaming, she phones me:

“Why, Mom?

Why that tree? Why me?”

“Not you,” I tell her.               And then:

“Why not you?”

She knows dead. She’s seen the bloat of OD,

the bullet-bruised, peeled-back flap of

skin from the corpse her father has yet to put

together.          But never

dead swinging;            never

the weight of the pendulum ticking back and forth in

that prix fixe slice of time no one remembers ordering.

I don’t know if she noticed—

and she notices everything—

the way the wind might have nudged him      or the putter

of squirrels scampering up and down the length of rope as it

swung, the same braided rope he        clutched as he climbed

the embankment next to her first home away from

home.              I can see her wet lashes, so long after the lengthening,

and those intense blue eyes that always flicker.

She didn’t hear            that night         what she always feared she’d hear:

not       heavy boots on crunchy leaves;          not       the grunts of a man

as he hefted himself up the second-tallest tree.

She hadn’t known to be afraid.

“Why didn’t I hear him, Mom?”        Her breath slows as we talk about

fear, about       intention, about           being in a place of

noticing.          Silence takes on a long swaying rhythm, and she is a child

again in my arms rocking in the hammock in our yard.

It’s hypnotic breathing together like that.


Hawk grazes the burnished sky.

If it looks tentative it’s because the wind is tentative—

blowing hard, then giving up.

It’s that kind of day.

The bird hovers, floats really, just above where I lounge

by my parents’ pool—with the old people and their noodles,

bobbing up and down, smiling and tan.

Hawk scans the hot patio for food.

Salamander shrinks back into the camouflage,

two feet still on the concrete, maybe needing this

hardness as a reminder that it all—this all—

really is tentative. Maybe it remembers

having gills and that moment when it grew legs

and maybe the hawk remembers

its heaviness—oh back in the day—and

wanting very much to be carried

by this wind.

I, too, had gills. And webbed feet.

But not feathers. Not wings. Not yet.

With my hawk eyes,

I’m still searching and, with my little

reptile limbs, still hiding

in the brush.

Jacqueline Henry is a Long Island-based freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in various publications, including The New York Times, The Southampton Review, Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, Clarion, After the Pause, The Cape Rock, Carbon Culture Review, Euphony, The North Atlantic Review, The Round, and Writer’s Digest magazine. She won first place in the 2009 Writer’s Digest Poetry Contest for her poem “The Undertaker’s Wife.” She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook University, where she has taught creative writing.