(originally published in the Red River Review)
We heard the air, blowing in and out of the throats
of the bullfrogs. It made a noise like cool flesh,
like slapping, like the sounds you make when you’re
wallowing in the tub. The croaking kept us awake
all night, and in the morning we saw the happy
pairs, hundreds and hundreds of squat pebbly bodies,
each one on top hugging the one below, bulging
jeweled eyes staring at nothing. The mating continued
all day and night, never stopping. The gelatin chains
draped the water-weed, black dots like peppercorns,
seasoning the salad. The frogs seemed to love
each other, as much as we do when we hug.
They couldn’t read or write, but their eyes held blame.
We were blamed for having failed at our lives,
for having fled the scene, for not caring enough
to stand up and force air from our throats,
and make our few needs known to the world.
A few days later the tadpoles followed, squiggling
through the water, fat, helpless, smooth the way
your skin is smooth where it touches mine.
Still their mothers and fathers kept at it. The pairs,
each holding another, staring at me from the dark pond,
webbed feet flailing to keep each body steady for as long
as the feeling lasts. It may last forever, they don’t seem
to care whether they’re hungry or thirsty and neither do we.