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Listening to the Whistlers - William Ragan

Listening to the Whistlers - William Ragan

Photograph and Drawing

20" x 30" x 1"


Listening to the Whistlers

by Ellen Chulak


Eighteen black-bellied whistling ducks landed in the heat of our yard

just now. Long-legged field hands, vermillion beaks typewriting

through soaked soil, guzzling greens, seeds, ants that bite, a solitary snail.

At pond’s edge, they meander an about face — striding as straight

as the white stripes on their wings for another go at the grass.

Their pit-pit-whee-do-deews, stuff the air with consolidated chaos…


like you and I squawking high above the Sea of Cortez’s cobalt — just where saline meets saline at the Pacific Ocean’s turquoise, where unconditional waves smash into the granite artwork at El Arco de Cabos St Lucas — Lands End. Strapped to blue and white parachutes, to an eight-hundred foot rope we hear our companions crying out — their cheerful chatter reaches us to mingle with our own.


When you visit, I will introduce you to these clamorous creatures,

their enormous white-rimmed eyes, pink legs, gray faces. They don’t venture north where we have lived. They stay in the southeast, Mexico.

I share my whistler enthusiasms with my new southern friends. They smile like an adult does when a child says something adorable. To them, seeing whistlers is like not noticing the sun has risen.


This is not like the world I have left behind —

My marshes. My ocean. My people. My Massachusetts Monet gardens in June, but I claim these ducks as my own — my soul mates:

nesting in unexpected places, sociable around a few humans at a time, making too much racket and fuss — except when cocooned in luscious solitude.

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