Everyone knows the legend of Vaucanson’s duck,
_ _who could eat, snuffle, preen,
_ _and muck about in mud
though made entirely of wire and wood.
Without the shitting duck, Voltaire wrote,
_ what would remind us_
_ of the glory of France?_
Many great men make great mistakes,
as when von Kempelen’s chess player
_ _was revealed a hoax. Even Napoleon
_ _lost his bid and crossed himself
when the mechanized voice declared Checkmate,
from the Persian schah mat, the king is dead.
_ _Ducked into the casket, under wooden arm
_ _and never watching eye,
a succession of men
whose legs could be folded beneath them
_ _like wings, including a midget
_ _who spoke only German
and flung himself from the frozen prow of a ship
in winter crossing. The fishermen who found him
_ _said their dinghies
_ _were floating far from the shore.
They had to wade out to meet him.