Monday, June 8, 2009

Russell Edson

This is the back cover of The Tunnel, the collection where I discovered my enduring favorite among all the many excellent poems written by Russell Edson.

Mr. & Mrs. Duck Dinner

An old woman with a duck under her arm is let into a house and asked, whom shall I say is calling?

Mr. and Mrs. Duck Dinner.

If you don't mind my asking, which is which?

Pointing to the duck the old woman says, this here's my husband. A little time passes and the butler reappears, yes, come right in, you're expected, the kitchen's just this way.

In the kitchen there's a huge stove.

The butler says, I'm sorry, we don't have a pot big enough for you; so we're using an old cast-iron bathtub. I hope you don't mind? We have a regular duck pot for your husband.

No, no, this is fine, I'll make pretend I'm having a bath.– Oh, by the way, do you have enough duck sauce? says the old woman.

Yes, plenty, and the cook's made up a nice stuffing, too.

My husband'll need plucking; I can undress myself, says the old woman.

Fine, that'll be a great help; we'll have the kitchen girl defeather your husband. –By the way, what would you suggest with duck? asks the butler.

Wild rice, but not too wild, we wouldn't want any trouble in the dining room; and perhaps asparagus spears . . . But make sure they're not too sharp, they can be quite dangerous; best to dull them on a grinding wheel before serving . . .

Very good, Madam. –By the way, do you think that having the kitchen girl defeather your husband might be a little awkward, if you know what I mean? She is rather pretty; wouldn't want to start any difficulties between you and your husband, says the butler.

No worry, says the old woman, we're professional duck dinners; if we started fooling around with the kitchen help we'd soon be out of business. –If you don't mind I'd like to get into the oven as soon as possible. I'm not as young as I used to be, not that I'm that old, but it does take me a little longer these days . . .

Edson's new book is See Jack from University of Pittsburgh Press.