A Little Duck’s Longing

A duck and a human watch a krathong in the river.

It’s not only humans that can feel loss and longing from an unexpected and untimely death. Jing Ying’s work explores the emotional impact of human death on nonhuman animals, subverting the tired ecological trope that nature would be better off without humans. In this beautiful work, a little duck is saddened by the death of a human kin, the reasons of which are left to the reader’s interpretation.

There is a palpable tension in the air that comes with the hustle and bustle of a special occasion. People are ferrying all sorts of things from the fields back to their homes—the usual crops, banana trunks, and banana leaves. Along the path between the fields and the village is an overhang over a small pond, where a little duck is swimming and minding his own business.

He looks up from the pond at the commotion on the path. He spends a few seconds scrutinising the banana parts people are ferrying before going back to his swimming routine. 

The little duck can’t keep his face from brimming with excitement. He, like many others, is looking forward to seeing the creations that people will bring to the pond later in the evening, when the full moon is up, and candles compete against the moon’s glow. It is the occasion of Loy Krathong, where people decorate pieces of banana trunks and set them afloat with their hopes and dreams. 

But he is mostly looking forward to seeing kin. His kin, his family, will come by soon to say hi. His kin is his tether to the world, the highlight to his every day. And no, that is not only because kin feeds him and keeps him literally alive, but because kin is kin, and his presence cannot be replaced by anyone else’s. 

Finally, his kin arrives with his krathong. His little webbed feet wobble up the bank of the pond and the little duck almost slips in his excitement. His kin chuckles. Just as he has done in the previous years, he plucks a feather from the duck, causing the duck to indignantly squawk in protest. But it was all in good humour; the duck knows this is essential. Finally, his kin adds his hair and the duck’s feather to his lotus-shaped krathong.

He lights it up and gently brings it to the surface of the water. The duck then re-enters the water with the krathong. He swears that he would not interfere with the lantern’s path, but inevitably pushes it forward, further into the sea of glowing krathong

We didn’t make it to another Loy Krathong. He knew it was going to happen soon, but waking up to his kin’s already cold body was more upsetting than he expected.

He misses his kin’s gentle touches, his amused chuckles, his reassuring presence. He closes his eyes and tries to imagine his kin swimming right there with him.

There is a palpable tension in the air that comes with the hustle and bustle of a special occasion. 

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