“Swamp Frogs, August 1965” by M. Brooke Wiese

A jelly jar of polliwogs perched
on the canted, rotting, swamp stump
of a silver birch, held there by the fringy lip
where a chainsaw’s teeth once bit.
Its tin lid glinted in the late summer sun
like the gilded dome of a belle époque hippodrome;
and the thin-skinned, black-stitched tadpoles
stirred up the murky silt and flashed
against the glass like minnows.

Or was the day more rainy and more grey?
Perhaps it was a yellow birch or a white oak –
I can’t recall – only the smell of leaf litter and decay;
only the peeling rolls from the paper birch
scattered on the peaty ground like papyrus scrolls,
on which, with quill pens fashioned
from seagulls’ dropped feathers, we wrote
with great curlicues and grand flourishes, our dreams –
exalted proclamations and treasure maps.

Sometimes the jar’s lid was screwed on tight
and held the polliwogs safe and snug inside
until at last all had succumbed;
but once or twice, if the lid wasn’t tightened well,
the jar slipped and fell off the mossy log
and tossed the tadpoles back into the antediluvian bog,
sending them thrashing through the muck
like a pack of snarling dogs, and then,
well, you know the ending… swamp frogs.




M. Brooke Wiese’s work has appeared in numerous publications, most recently in The Raintown Review and in Poem. Her poems have also been published in Atlanta ReviewBarrow Street, and Grand Street, and her chapbook, At the Edge of The World, was published by The Ledge Press in 1998. After a very long hiatus, she has again been writing furiously. She has worked in education and nonprofit social services.

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