WATER OFF A DUCK’S by Erin Virgil

water off a duck’s…

I wake up and find
I’m trapped in a lagoon,
but the water is gone: something else in its place, black and brown.
It sticks to me all over
drags down my feathers when I try to raise my wing.
What is this smell, there is weight in it
and the liquid grit is in my eyes now,
and mouth, nose, lungs, anus.
I can feel it soaking into my skin, a reverse wound,
the outside coming into me.
I don’t want it in my body, it’s heavy, it’s coarse
so I dive down, I’ll swim beyond its claws
but I can’t find my way
nothing is familiar
there’s too much darkness


This past summer at Naropa, the long-time poet and environmentalist Jack Collom said, “I hope we can use the oil spill as a dark mirror.”  This has become a mantra, how I’m looking at everything now; through our dark dark mirror, the ugliness our desires have made.  As I write this, BP has finally capped the gaping wound in our Earth; but the plant and animal death toll, the economic losses, the depth of this mirror-all of these are still growing.


Erin Virgil is an MFA student at Naropa University.  She lives in Boulder, Colorado, at the foot of a mountain.

2 thoughts on “WATER OFF A DUCK’S by Erin Virgil

  1. Dear Erin
    Through a language mirroring empathy ,you have powerfully captured the plight of innocent creatures trapped by oil spill and the effect of the catastrophe on our beautiful planet.For us who live faraway such poems are eye openers.Thank You for sharing.
    With love and prayers

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