Three Frog Poems

Gnomic Frogs

for frogman Brent

Tree frogs are creaking
out in the dark cave of night,
in the hollow of the ocean’s roar
beyond my open window.

Where do they live during the day?
For hours I’ve studied the moss
growing on the forest’s trunks
and never spied a green tree frog.

Can I blame them for being
so completely themselves,
for embracing night so wholeheartedly
when it’s during the day we people clamor so loudly?

Were there only such a frog
as could sing a few appreciative lines
about the bubble of light in which I dwell
high up in my room above the woods!

How I exclaim myself with my pen,
how such human attentiveness
must be worthy of mention
in the annals of the frogs,

but who seem only to say,
“Prayers are best not
answered. Silence
is the soundest reply.”

Pacific Green Tree Frog, photographed by Brent Matsuda (bio below)

Pacific green tree frog (all photographs by Brent Matsuda—bio below)

Lucky Frog

Frog, I see you hop across the freeway
in a rain storm as I speed by.

Water blasting out of wheel ruts,
juggernauts of tires bearing down,
cars like hydroplanes, freighters
like mountains flying by.

Under a hundred wheels (and mine)
you hop and hop and do not stop,
you do not dodge or turn around or give a thought
to being crushed and turned to mush.

In my rear view mirror I see you make it
to the other side. You lucky, lucky frog,
the whole wide world
your slippery bog!

Note: “Lucky Frog” was previously published in Many Trails to the Summit: Poems by Forty-two Northwest Poets, edited by David D. Horowitz, 2010.

Columbia spotted frog

Columbia spotted frog

Haiku

her stream dried up
the young frog sets out
down the human trail

*

sitting on the deck—
both my cat’s and my head turn
at spring’s first frog-croak

*

hey there’s a whole clan
of green tree frogs
creaking over there

Peruvian frog

Peruvian frog

The photographer: Brent Matsuda is a naturalist and wildlife biologist with a specialization in herpetology (the study of amphibians and reptiles), based in British Columbia. Although most of his professional work involves birds, his personal passion is frogs. Brent conducted his thesis work on the only frog in North America that uses internal fertilization and breeds in fast-flowing cold mountain streams: the coastal tailed frog. He is the lead author of the Amphibians and Reptiles of British Columbia field guide. In his spare time, Brent loves to photograph frogs wherever he travels in the world.

Sensitive species

Sensitive species

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Naturally—by guest author Timothy Fichtner

Nature, that of you which is large enough to see with my eyes, I speculate, I understand. Nature, that of you which is too small to see with my eyes, I speculate, I don’t understand.

I like my mysteries, my own fallacious and mal-informed philosophical taradiddles on Nature. I know that’s what they are. I know I’m not fooling anybody but myself. Well, actually I do act like I know something about Nature, but it’s not like I don’t get checked on my speculations. I read observations by others. I watch documentaries on Nature sciences. And I have to admit, the truth about some natural phenomena is not so much fun as getting to the truth of natural phenomena.

Light reflecting off glasses of MIT smarty-pantses—who are they to tell me what’s true about Nature? They report observations and findings that enlighten me to the biochemical forces that drive Nature into a physical and tangible object or event that I can touch. I curse you, and I delight in you. They talk from my television, explaining this tangible reality on into even more mystifying and unseen phenomena, states, conditions, or substances that living nature thrives on, such as the colors of different gases in the air, in the ether, that are a byproduct or food source of a plant or mammal or insect—these new facts or findings that they report ruin it for me and at the same time fascinate me.

Now what I’m about to document is going to appear selfish and cruel to my reader, but I am left with no choice—given my nature: Damn you, Edward O. Wilson, damn you. Who on this Earth do you think you are? Not only do you apprise me of the most intricate microscopic fact, but you also continue your documents into the most highly articulate and erudite pithy maxims ever philosophized on the observance of Nature—damn you again. So what now is left me to muse on in Nature’s magical and mysterious—maybe even mystical—tour that I adore? Not so much, Wilson, not so much.

Edward O. Wilson

Edward O. Wilson

Is it Sir David Attenborough, or is it Lord David Attenborough? I can’t remember. In any case, I have a few things to say about you too—naturally. I have listened to and watched you over my many years, beginning with my nascent childhood and extending into my ever-inquisitive adulthood. How much I love your voice, your cadence, your insightfully nuanced chattering narrations—I hate you too, I think. In those many years of our long career together, we have grown old—and you even more so. I have watched your body crumple, crumpled downward like so many of the old. I notice your groans interrupt your narration as you kneel down to the ground to point out the significance of the seemingly insignificant. And, Mr. Attenborough, if the natural spectacle happens to be above your crumpled head, I notice a wobble impedes your steadiness when you look up. However, Attenborough, all this, your crumpledness, has only made you more amiable, more adorable. David, you have evolved from a compelling, richly spoken narrator scientist to the wisest of old sages, a profound and whimsical instructor and wandering renouncer, a lovable British-style grandpa Walton.

David Attenborough

David Attenborough

Now you, Sir David or Lord Attenborough, are the subject of my documentary, chronologically following the disintegration of the corporeal human body as one of Nature’s wonders. Like one of your documentaries, it’s a wise tale full of anthropomorphically cognate observations on the trials of one of Nature’s most enduringly curious and complicated mammals: The Naturalist as Narrator. I can look back in my mind, and in my mind’s eye I can picture you, Lord Attenborough, anywhere I am. I can picture you standing there, narrating what I’m thinking—my thoughts—but in your voice. So ubiquitous, Sir David, you are a conscious and subconscious fossil imprinted in the muddy primordia upon which I impress my own perceptive animal tracks. You, Lord Attenborough, are a spectating specter that haunts my delusional speculations of Nature.

Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough

My point is, Reader, to illustrate how corrupt and intrusive the informed mind is, and how stilted and stymied it can be, given this information. I hope I’m not in any way grand-stating my speculations as brilliant, but I have seen, through my time and reading, brilliance shaded by known conclusions, conclusions that are in serious need of reigniting so that fiery brilliance can light up darkened areas of the natural sciences.

I know, I know, I’m asking for it. I’m asking all who really know about Nature to just go ahead and ruin it all for me. And when I read back what I’ve written, Reader, I see it sort of compares to the patchy, eccentric, nonsensical ramblings of a nitwit. However, in defense of my nitwittiness, I have an imagination that roams without trepidation into raw voids it fills with fantasy, which I will proclaim is perfectly Natural—naturally.

In conclusion, to my colluding cockamamie pseudo-scientists, I ask that you keep in observance our three primate friends: “See no evil, Hear no evil, and Speak no evil.” And in the words of the Nature narrator Winston Hibler, “For that is Nature’s way.”

Timothy Fichtner is a visual artist and nature lover who lives and works in Chelan, Washington, with his wife, one dog, three cats, and a rescued squirrel.