Getting the duck to fly

On the tram line in Brunswick Street
a duck is resting. In sight
comes the tram, majestically gliding.
A little crowd, quickly assembled
from half a dozen eateries is urging
the duck to fly, at least to waddle
as a preliminary to getting airborne.
Quick, quick. Shoo, shoo. Someone
touches the tail feathers, gives a nudge.
Remember flying? No time to rest, duck.
Shall someone scoop it up? The horn
is sounding but the tram's not slowing.
Oh relief! It's moving. Come on, duck.
Let our evening end in an anecdote.

Elizabeth Smither has published 19 collections of poetry, was poet laureate (2001-03) and was awarded an Hon DLitt by Auckland University in 2004 and the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in 2008. She has published six collections of short stories and six novels as well as journals and memoirs. Her poetry collection Night Horse won the Ockham NZ Book Award for poetry in 2018. Her latest short story collection, The Piano Girls, was published in 2021 and her latest poetry collection, My American Chair, was jointly published in 2022 by Auckland University Press and MadHat Poetry Press, USA.

Elizabeth comments: 'We were having a magical evening in a restaurant in Brunswick Street. I'm not sure now whether it was a Greek restaurant where we smashed plates into the fireplace and danced around the tables or an Italian one with the waitresses in swirling skirts hemmed with ribbons. We came out into Brunswick Street almost dazed out of our skins and there was the muscovy duck, placidly sitting on the tram tracks and the tram moving in that stately but unstoppable way of Melbourne trams that makes you think of Nemesis. Melburnians are not in the least perturbed by their trams: a little crowd of inebriated revellers surrounded the duck, trying to urge it to make haste. The tram sounded its horn and gave no hint of stopping. At the last moment … I can think of no other phrase but 'We have liftoff'.

​Poem source details >


My American Chair (Auckland University Press, 2022)