It was on the train when I saw the watercolor ducks by George Clarke


It was on the train when I saw the watercolor ducks. They were there when we surfaced in the embrasure, somehow half the bridges of my life folding into deflection. I started taking the hydrologic cycle seriously after Monica showed me envelopes she made from scrapped paintings. The boundaries between water and color are not laid up in heaven, she said, or seemed to say, which is why these sorts of structures are key terrain in combat situations. It was the Manhattan Bridge, if it matters, and it was the old kind of morning, softened gardens of a thousand dyes. Honey and blue gum through the decking like hammered tin. I was convinced there was a missing element, one that could explain my propensity for uppers and weather reports. A man filming the skyline in a cap that reads “computer rehab” in green monospace and it was faded and corduroy from dissecting PCs in the sun. He might be in his sixties. An empty cup rolled past, got stuck under a stroller. He might have played baseball or once won a twenty-five dollar gift-card from the dentist’s annual trivia contest because he had two appointments in one week and turned in his answers at the second one after going home to ask his brother for help. So it was easy to imagine speaking to him. A theory of distance. The spilled coffee caught the light and we charted its avulsions. I asked about the video and he told me he couldn’t get a good take. This would be his last time going into the city. As if a video would prove anything, he said. It could prove the ducks, I said. He said the ducks could go to hell. It was easy: the two of us on the roof, by the computer, talking about the glass footbridge, the Ponte della Costituzione, which was in the news, both of us remembering and reciting the official’s statement: “We can’t always do poetry, we must give security.” Breaking your neck on a glass bridge is ever more poetic than crossing its amendment. I mentioned the key terrain. It’s the same in literature, he said, or minigolf. A copula, I said. Sure, like, Jesus. This asshole makes a bridge you can’t cross without writing a poem and gets upset when people sue him. Then we are quiet. The cup rolls back out, into the coffee. The ducks: dripped back and proving nothing. We’ll disappear on the other side, back into what we call underground. I’ll get out at Grand St. like always and Monica will meet me at the theater like what I wish was always. I’ll try to describe the waterfowl and how I watched an old man film his face instead of the skyline. The sun made our eyes water. As if to keep burning it must draw a film. Is it too obvious? We can’t always do poetry and before you say anything, it’s because I love you and my phone is going to die. I have no groceries at home and there are ducks painted in the river.

George Clarke is most recently from Louisiana. He is pursuing an MFA at Brooklyn College where he is a Goldstein Scholar and Capote Fellow.