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.