Frog Writing '97


Published Writers
"Death of a Naturalist," poem by Seamus Heaney
"Spring swamp--full moon," poem by John Caddy
"Eye of Toad," poem by John Caddy
"Rebels from Fairy Tales," poem by Hyacinthe Hill
"Frogs," poem by Joe Paddock
The Five Owls magazine a link to further literature of frog-inspired books and more
Student writings from previous year


By Seamus Heaney

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window-sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

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By John Caddy

In the night, in the ponds
I walk thigh wet.

A season's deaths layer the mud
pulling me in.

Frogs hang from moonlight
by their eyes,

shrilling of months stunned
alive, alone,

Cattails angle white in dark water,
flatworms on a dying blade

Mouths, all the searching
soft mouths

pulling me in, a small and cold but
singing thing.

Bubbles of swamp gas laze to the moon
as I wobble and lurch,

From fall's brown scuttle,
tendrils of algae green.

Frogs are not mad.
The comfort in mud isn't cold.

Copyright (C) John Caddy 1986,
from Eating the Sting

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By John Caddy

The mouth is wide, habit of hunger,
stretched drum throat trembles, alive, and
the fourth finger quivers in its sleep.

Eyes of wet gold netted in sable,
intuitive lessons in dream.
(Cellini wept when he saw these eyes.)

In greens and blues a fly shines and preens.
A white nerve throbs between hunger and gold,
quickens the throat to tongue

-song! A wing spirals in jarred light.
The eyes swallow closed, content,
and slow as their depth arise and gaze again

in dreams of gold and sanguine consummations, and
the fourth finger quivers in its sleep.

Note: Cellinni was a great Italian Renaissance goldsmith. He wept because he knew he could never equal the filigreed golden beauty in the toad's eye.

Copyright (C) John Caddy 1986, from Eating the Sting

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By Hyacinthe Hill

We are the frogs who will not turn to princes.
We will not change our green and slippery skin
for one so lily-pale and plain, so smooth
it seems to have no grain. We will not leave
our leap, our spring, accordion. We have
seen ourselves in puddles, and we like
our grin. Men are so up and down, so thin
they look like walking trees. Their knees seem stiff,
and we have seen men shooting hares and deer.
They're queer--they even war with one another!
They've stretched too far from earth and natural things
for us to admire. We prefer to lie
close to the water looking at the sky
reflected; contemplating how the sun,
Great Rana, can thrust his yellow, webbed foot
through all the elements in a giant jump;
can poke the bottom of the brook; warm
the stumps for us to sit upon; and heat
our backs. Men have forgotten to relax.
They bring their noisy boxes, and the blare
insults the air. We cannot hear the cheer
of crickets, nor our own dear booming chugs.
Frogs wouldn't even eat men's legs.
We scorn their warm, dry princesses. We're proud
to of our own bug-eyed brides with bouncing strides.
Keep your magic. We are not such fools.
Here is the ball without a claim on it.
We may begin from the same tadpoles, but
we've thought a bit, and will not turn to men.

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By Joe Paddock

At that time there was still a pothole
over every hill, and the frogs in the fall
swarmed like maggots in the carcass of a dead horse.
Sometimes, after the coming of the cars,
they had to get out the blade to scrape the slick
of crushed frogs off that road that circles Stork Lake.

One sunny Saturday afternoon in late September,
more than forty years back now,
down around the bay,
about fifteen town kids began to herd frogs
up from the water's edge where they lay
dozing in the sun by thousands,
big heavy leopard frogs that would stretch
nine, ten inches from nose to dew claw.

They herded them slowly
up over Anderson's pasture hill.
You would've thought it was wind through grass
sweeping ahead of them.
Herded them up onto the road into town,
herded them with real care, losing a few here and there,
but maintaining the mass
(some guessed five thousand, some ten)
and at the corner of Sixth,
they turned them, losing maybe forty dozen
which bounced on over Hershey's lawn,
confusing the beJesus out of their old basset hound, Monty,
who, after sniffing and poking with his paw,
sat down and howled at a thin sliver of day moon
in the sky.

Old Mrs. Angier said she first heard a sound
like five thousand hands patting meat,
and when she looked up the street, she saw
these kids, serious and quiet, with a grey-brown wave,
like swamp water to their knees,
rolling along in front of them.
Mrs. Angier said, "Now, you never heard a word
from a single one of those kids.
They were silent and strange with that haze of a wave
rolling along in front of them.
Just that patting sound
times five thousand.
It tell you, it made the goose flesh roll
up my back and arms!"

The boys claimed later that they had no plan,
but, when they came alongside "Horse" Nelson's
Fixit Quick Garage - which contained
maybe a half­dozen broken­down cars
and "Horse" and Allen, his son, and "Windy" Jeffers -
one kid barked: "Bring 'em on in!"
And they turned that herd of frogs on a dime
(they were herding easy by this time),
and ran them through the entranceway.
Young Jim Hedeen grabbed the handle
of the sliding door and rolled her shut,
and those kids vanished like fifteen rabbits
into whatever weed patch they could find.

Well, hell, you can imagine.
"Windy" was on his back working upward on a spring
when those slimy devils started sliding all over him.
They say he most­near tipped that Model A on its side
getting out of there. And "Horse,"
who was no doubt nearly through his daily pint
of peach brandy, dropped a cam shaft
on Allen's toe and ran and hid in the can,
and Allen, who'd been mean and noisy
from his first sqawk on, began hopping one-footed
amidst that froth of frogs. (And you know
how they have a way of climbing
up the inside of your pants, all wet
and with those scratchy little claws!)
Allen, slam-banging whatever came to hand,
tipped a couple cars from jacks and screamed:

Forty­three years have passed,
but those frogs have never quit rolling
from the tongues of people around town.
It's one of those stories you learn early
and carry with you, and measure
the taste of life by
till the day you die.

Copyright © Joe Paddock 1985, from Earth Tongues
(Milkweed Editions 1985)

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