Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thoreau and the Toads

by David Wagoner

After the spring thaw, their voices ringing
At dusk would beckon him through the meadow
To the edge of their pond where, barefoot,
He would wade slowly into the water
And stand there in the last of light
To see the mating toads—a hundred or more
In the shallows around him, ignoring him
Or taking him for another, inflating
The pale-green bubbles of their throats to call
For buffo terrestris, leaping half out of the pool
And scrambling to find partners. The atmosphere
Would quiver with their harmonic over-
And undertones, with their loud, decent proposals
Like the sounds of a church potluck, their invocations
And offertories for disorderly conduct,
With the publishing of their indelicate banns
And blessings to the needy in their distress
And benedictions even beyond springtime
To all those of the faith. And he would see
Among this communal rapture, there underwater,
The small grey males lying silent
On the backs of females, holding on
To their counterparts with every slippery finger
And toe, both motionless, both gazing
Inward at the Indivisible
And rising from time to time together
To the surface only an inch above them
To breathe, then settling again and staring
With such a consciousness of being
Common American toads, he would stand beside them,
As content as they were with their medium
Of exchange, the soles of his feet trembling
With a resonance he could feel deep in his spine,
Believing this mud could be his altar too,
And his pulpit, where all of his intentions
Would be as clear as theirs, as clear as the air
In the chill of the fading light. He would lift
His bare feet gently and silently, making scarcely
A ripple, balancing
Himself onto the grass and, while his brethren
Like a drunken choir went on
And on without him, would sit down
Vibrant on the earth and once again struggle
Into his stockings, into his waterproof boots,
And straighten and square-knot his rawhide laces.


please note: photo by Elizabeth Freeman

11 comments:

  1. Found that very soothing. Nicely done!

    Have a wonderful day,
    Jane

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  2. very nice......hope all is well with you today. take good care and hoist a wine glass or two for yourself, ciao, jc

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  3. What hauntingly beautiful words.

    CJ xx

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  4. It's a lovely piece to beckon spring and a reawakening.

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  5. I think anyone who has ever wallowed in the mud of a frog pond under the full moon while coming to realize that mating and survival and evolution are based on a simple binary choice of "yes" or "no" can relate to these intense words from Wagoner... and for anyone who hasn't yet... well, get out there and wallow in the water and mud. It helps remind us where we came from.

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  6. Wonderful and awe inspiring. Happy Easter!

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  7. Well told. Here from Lakeviewer. I should have known your writing would be a good read!

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  8. So, so nice for me to read at the end of a rainy Easter Sunday. Thanks!

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  9. It was like that about a month ago over here. My folks have a pond and it is always teeming in March. The kid went over there yesterday to hold tadpoles... The writer conveys the odd naturalness of standing in mud with frogs very well.

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  10. Loved this....
    I cut an article from the paper this month about ways to attract and protect frogs to our yards. We have some little froggies, but I'd love to have more.

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Hey, thanks for your thoughts and your time:>)