Dancing Dust

Poems by Mollie Caird (1922-2000)

Love in a damp environment

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The ruddy sheldrake guards the mallard’s nest;
A refugee from some collector’s lake,
He has no shelduck here, will live or die
For modest mallard’s sake.

Contented mallard warms her ten pale eggs;
Her natural mate brings neither care nor crust:
Drake mallards fish and gang-bang with their friends
 — Their life is frogs and lust.

But, sentinel by night, patrol by day,
Enamoured sheldrake with his love enhances
Godfathered ducklings’ safe survival rate
Beyond all normal chances.

Cui bono, then?  Drake mallard, cunning devil,
With fun, and genes secured?  Or smug brown duck?
 — A raffish spouse and handsome, doting squire
Exceed most women’s luck;

Or sheldrake, pattern of true selflessness?
How admirable, how enviable a bird.
We praise, yet mock him.  Why?  Are all great loves,
Even our human loves (these most, perhaps)
Inherently absurd?