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The Space of the Mandarin Duck

Apparently in Japan
One century and a half ago
The love-language of France
Was thought to be shocking.

So blatant, so presumptuous, so brutal
Its violation of the atmosphere
Proper to every person.

I covet, they said in Japan,
The space of the mandarin duck,
There, at your side, beside you.

The liminal duck took delight
Breezily as a go-between.
Tender obliquity saw it off.

A space with nothing there,
Dear old duck, even unaccompanied
And far, far away from others,
Still your space I covet.

Come the day when a volley of your quacks
Quells every twittering vandal of speech
And unspeaks the sweet-talker
Whose voice curdles with money and hate.

Christopher Middleton

A Company of Ghosts
Sheep Meadow Press

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