Issue 115, Summer 1990
Child-crafted clouds, all sheen and fleece and curlicues,
as a girl, with her tongue in her teeth, would have made them,
the point of her crayon squashed against the page.
One came across the mountains, then another came;
one shadow of one ran across the grass and then another;
but the small apple tree and even the great maples
flagged in a heat that hung like rain,
that grayed the air with sweat under
the stark, flat, white medallion of the sun;
a swimmer’s heat that even the woman on the porch steps
panted in. Still, she would not go in the pond.
The small frogs at the rim of it sprang in unison,
slapped the water and dove down at the first bare footsteps
from the summer house. The tadpoles in the sand—
they lay wary, some with their tails and some
all belly and aspic legs and some
hung breathing at the top, not fish, not lizards.
They all darted deeper when one of us stepped in.
Eerie and still in the weeds at the water’s edge,
a frog the size of an infant’s head, stared,
its gullet throbbing, half-submerged and luminously yellow,
squeezing out a voice that was like a gong,
while she—and she was the most graceful of the guests—
graceful as a girl and sweet as one,
earnest, reticent as a girl and as severe—
still she, of all of us, would not go in,
would not go swimming in the pond and flinched when she was urged to.
And she made little gestures with her hands,
and she made nervous movements with her lips,
and she said she did not like the dark upon the surface
through which, when she was in beyond her waist,
she could not see the things—she called them things—
that went along the bottom where her ankles were.
And it was no use arguing.