Bruce Bond

The Tadpoles

Just this morning I felt the last ripple
and chill of their vanishing parts,

their weird small feet as they swam away,
back into the swampland, into the boy

I was when I first laid eyes on one—
so small in my father’s hand it made

that hand a little larger, more dangerous,
more the father, mindful as he cupped

his dreary soup to float the writhing arms.
A spectacle too brief, too half-remembered:

the slit of the open eye, the slime-smooth
effluvial tail before the flesh would take it.

And so I woke that night and lit a branch
in the coals of the fire-circle by my tent

to walk the path to the water-line alone.
It was the dry season, and every torch

a bad idea. Everywhere the crackle
of the brush that withered into blossom.

More than any campfire and its story,
the tadpoles held me, their language verging

on a language, or so the silence said.

Every day I wash my face in silence,
the frog in me released to swim the mirror.

I look more and more the father as I go.
I understand what it is to worry

about a child who crawls from his tent
at night, who goes searching for a stick.

I want to promise him we will return
in the morning, though, truth is, it will be

different. He will be water in my hand.
I will drink my tea and swallow the foul

angelic flesh of dreams I cannot recall.
Just some vague shivery kinship that says,

wonder is hazard; the death of wonder
more hazardous still. Ask the boy I was—

he is older than me—ask him as he kneels
to coil the sleepy writher in his hand,

is there a frog there still, a child’s child,
a midnight chirping. How terribly odd, this hand.

Bruce Bond is the author of nine published books of poetry, most recently Choir of the Wells: A Tetralogy (Etruscan, 2013), The Visible (LSU, 2012), Peal (Etruscan, 2009), and Blind Rain (LSU, 2008). His books The Other Sky (poems in collaboration with the painter Aron Wiesenfeld, Etruscan), For the Lost Cathedral (LSU), and Immanent Distance: Poetry and the Metaphysics of the Near at Hand (University of Michigan) are forthcoming. He is a Regents Professor of English at the University of North Texas and Poetry Editor for American Literary Review.
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