Mandarin ducklings

leap from their nest

high in a tree

for the first time

when they are one day old.

The mother duck jumps first

leading the way

then watches
from the ground

and calls to them.

The yellow ducklings

fall through the air— 

their featherless wings

as ineffective as flippers.

The birds bounce
against the forest floor

and wait for the others.

Then the little flock

follows its mother
to the water.


At the park for field day

I watch my son’s class

coming down the sidewalk

like spilled marbles.

Matching blue shirts

follow his teacher

as she walks backward

leading the way.

Her hand is raised

above her head

and her fingers are waving

but I can’t hear

what she says.

Cars settle to a stop

so the kids can cross

and make their way
to Woodland Park

where they join me

and the rest
of the waiting mothers.