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Author: Harry Youtt
Location: Hermosa Beach, California

Harry Youtt is the former Poet in Residence at the Philosophical Research Society. He coordinated the Poets Against the War events in Los Angeles immediately prior to the 2003 invasion. Since 1990, Harry has been an instructor in the Writers' Program at UCLA (Ext.).

I Shall Not Tell You What Happens to the Duck

I shall not tell you what happens to the duck
in Prokofiev's narrated version of Peter and the Wolf.
If you know, try putting it out of your mind.
If you don't know, do not seek an answer from me.
I shall not tell you, even though at the age of five or six,
I learned the terrible truth -- and managed to cope.

I didn't know then
that life would bring so much of the duck.
I've now almost succeeded at forgetting -- and just as well.
The story of the duck proves there are stories
that probably shouldn't be told.

I remember hapless Peter's melody-theme
and the flute-flitting lilt of that peripatetic bird.
And the way that Peter saves the bird
from the cat's voracious yearning.
I remember the melodies of each of these,
and the Wolf, inevitably the Wolf --
ominous, of course, and yet somehow obsolete,
even before those blatant hunters
timpani themselves out of the forest
and claim their military limelight.

But the duck! That forlorn theme of the duck's oboe
sounds in my mind late at night,
and I want to weep when I hear it.
Peter finishing up in an undeserved
triumphal procession, with all themes blaring,
and the bird happy, and Peter happy,
and the listening children supposed to be smiling.
Did they expect us just to forget the duck's tragedy?
Must every parade find its way to joy only by
swallowing all memory of its duck?
I shall not tell you more, even though you may ask.
If you persist, I'll perhaps be forced to lie to you
and contrive a happy ending.
Do not interrupt to beg that I relent.
Don't ply me with drinks and bribes to soften my resolve.
Do not approach and inquire, did I really mean
to keep my silence even after this poem was done?
I really meant it.

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