On the far side

of the lake,

they’re calculating

how to shake me

from my bench

so I’ll leave

my lunch behind.


Despicable – these

ducks who seem

innocent enough,


who will trouble waterways

to ruffle my peace

with unrelenting eyes.


I admit

every staring thing

unhinges me:

the maple peering

into our living room,

the cat spying

on the patio,

the kid pounding drums

on his steering wheel

as I stroll within

the crosswalk lines.

Nothing, it seems,


the grace of privacy.


psychologists’ protests,

this phobia is real –

as real as

Thinking makes it so.



I’ll tackle

exposure therapy

and face off

each anatidae

in town.



For now,

my deep breaths

summon up a prayer

that dabblers, divers,

and buffleheads

will close their eyes

once they realize

all I have

is hummus

spread edge-to-edge

on organic celery.


* The irrational fear of being stared at by a duck

Carolyn Martin

From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin has journeyed from New Jersey to Oregon to discover Douglas firs, months of rain, and dry summers. Her poems and book reviews have appeared in publications throughout North America and the UK, and her fourth collection, A Penchant for Masquerades, was released by Unsolicited Press in early 2019. Find out more about Carolyn at

Contributions by Carolyn Martin