Tuesday, January 1, 2008

No Frogs in Eastwood

My child presses her face to the glass at the zoo.
“There’s one,” I say,
pointing to the golden mantella,
to the rain forest blues and reds.
She sees. She answers, “Frog.”
Science News says, “Frog Populations Decline.”
My daughter feels no loss.
Frogs are as plentiful as ever
on the pages of picture books,
where they squat beside giraffes,
unicorns, dragons, and dinosaurs,
each as real to her as the other.
Really real would be a barefoot child
splashing in a farm pond, squealing in pursuit
of a creature too fast, too slippery to hold.
Real would be falling asleep
to the plunking, rubber-band chorus.
My job is to make it real
for a child with no backyard creek
on her forty-foot city lot.
“See it jump? See it jump?” I say.
See how the skin glistens?
See the strong, splayed legs?
The delicate, pulsing throat?
She sees. Sees the marvelous, comical form,
but not (not yet) the sign that reads, “Endangered.”
It is my job to make her fall in love
with what is passing. It is my job
to prepare her heart for breaking.

Cheryl Gatling

published in River Oak Review