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                                          MIKE COOPER

Down on duck duty

                                                                The best time to be a teacher
                                                                is after lunch
                                                                in that rare hush
                                                                when their minds turn to the task
                                                                and yours turns to vapour
                                                                seeps through the classroom walls, and trickles down outside
                                                                                       on the river
                                                                you can stop paddling
                                                                let the current carry the canoe
                                                                and trail your hand in the water
                                                                                       from the bank
                                                                those great ungainly gums
                                                                stretch out their lower limbs
                                                                                       only their upper leaves stir
                                                                where half-concealed a flock of lorikeets
                                                                feed and squabble in the heat
                                                                                       at length a zephyr comes
                                                                                       it soothes
                                                                                       it brings you snatches of a boating song
                                                                Down the aisles you glide,
                                                                murmuring "my -- lovely -- little -- ducklings."
                                                                Although they are 12 and mostly 13
                                                                they seem happy to pretend.
                                                                Here and there
                                                                as the rhythm requires
                                                                you pat one on the crown.
                                                                Behind your back you hear a whisper,
                                                                "Sir, you missed me!"
                                                                When you turn, you find Amelia
                                                                almost in dismay.
                                                                "You missed mine," she indicates
                                                                and ducks her downy head.




Mike Cooper was born in Tasmania in 1939.