We lug them in bunched by a neck cord;
blind heads drop, bills agape.
Mostly mallards, a few pintail and teal, wet, tousled.
When I try to smooth the ruffled feather-bellies,
my hand is surprised by warmth, and limp response
to an empty fondle. I remember
their quick release from flight,
the arc broken to sprawl,
and blunt aftersound to the clean shot
that brought them down, and let their beauty go.
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