Encounter with Frogs
What is an impression worth?
A frog. And a jar of ruddy leeches.
When I say “frog,” I think “Frogs.
Frogs are good to think.”
The matter of frog experience first floats
Then sinks mostly unknowable, spuriously
Into the spawning pond of memory.
It’s a rich seminal soup, full of eyes,
Magnified, each a natural universe.
These eyes are vocal once they spring
Breaking through the skin of things.
In season, everywhere. Then they’re out.
Wonders of compromise, they extend themselves
To bridge the poles of water world and padded land.
And the extensions can be perceived from the eyes
As orderly change, clear and strange,
As leggy fish with iguana tails,
As animals flying on all fours,
Fully outstretched, twice their size,
Jumping, climbing piggy-back,
Unabashedly clambering onto one another’s backs,
Orange on orange, green on green,
Clinging colorfully, eyes bulging,
They seem a surprise even to themselves.
When they leap
From the dense compact of bone and skin,
The plastic tapestry
Takes shape. As lightning bolts or spotted lilies on fresh
Frogs are naturally good to think,
To take inside as part of insubstantial life,
Changing order, cruising the classifications.
Their song defeats the ears, allegro!
The rhythmic noise communicates,
Encroaching on all other senses,
Setting forth reverie:
Against the moon and stars,
Spiked grasses on the mirror lake,
Edging the weeds, where
Sedge warblers are sleeping on blue eggs.
The scene you see cannot be forced,
Cannot be tidily arranged
By science or dulling habit.
My eyes within no longer truly see.
There they swim in thicker waters,
Shooting across the neural galaxies,
Where they re-connect icons.
From a blade of grass, the rest:
Echoing ripples across
Shattering the constellations,
Ruffling the lily pad
And its camping amphibious motility.
Making the connections symphonic, concrete,
Like visiting forgotten shrines,
So much depends on Memory.
Glazed frogs transporting—déjà vu—
Faint essences to flush meadowlarks
From the nesting spirit
To wild flights of fancy.
Each a winged message,
Calling, answering unasked questions.
My gaze, pilgrim in a landscape
Painting itself inside,
Inviting me to choose the color and the brush.
This is a risky business,
On the odd chance a relevant word
Will leap the illogical impasse.
by David Gilmour
Day Hike, Whidbey Island
On the prairie’s far north side we strike
the bluff trail, wind lush with salt,
with stories pried from kelp.
Or have we always owned their song?
An eagle glides forty feet above us,
wings held aloft without a quiver.
Dark as anthracite, it drifts toward terrain
only it can occupy, more stunning
than even the lagoon trapped between beach
and bluff. When we pause by a stark,
sun-bleached log I see beyond you
the path it takes, the descent into myth,
a port I long to visit. No, not visit—
recover. Fling my net over a dream
claimed as birthright, a child’s first realm.
Baseball, fairy tales, hazelnut trees atop
a wild ravine—all food to nourish
the living no less than a prodigal rain.
Like this bird’s passive flight. Such creatures
open us like shells. What tide must
we invoke to cross the water?
Perego’s Trail at Ebey’s Landing
A few miles from home, our get-away from months
Of melancholic habitation,
Dolorous rounds of merest metabolism,
Out here, even flat fields lay as still wonders,
Farmed prairies leveled in spring plantings,
Inspiring us out of ourfallow bodies like clouds
About to burst after too much drinking in the dark.
Was high time for two of us to center on one
From perverse suburban cycles of delivery and receipt,
To get up for some other purpose than habit presents.
Across from Coupeville on the Whidbey map, Perego’s Trail,
Ascending on the outermost edge of the yellow bluff, took us,
Upward from Ebey’s Landing, hundreds of feet, treading
The line between the wild and the good, the lower Straits
Opposite Dungeness and cultures plats of Sherman’s Land.
Out of limbo we trod the path toward the north where
Perego’s brackish ponds limn the narrow strand below,
Heaped around with drifted logs and scraggly stumps
Once bound for Skagit mills. Claims in every direction
Had been named with history’s lumber, now standing
In shacks and mansions that coursed down rivers
Into weirs and settled at last vagabond in tamed banks
With tired sailors’ dreams for safe landings and boarding
A welcoming community nestles in.
From the beach, the trail rose northward up sturdy planks,
Switch-backing to land, then angling west to the Sound,
Narrowing to the line climbing the lower bluff’s rim,
Where at stations crude benches were set for those soon weary.
Our eyes askance, we strode past turning points, glancing
Out to sea at fingertip islands and the peninsular thumb
Of the giant who held the Sound as a mirror in his palm.
Climbing still to take the trail where the air hummed
In the pockets of morning sun, music of a million bees,
Dancing on cello wings, busy among the dog rose, pink
Gems on hedges, spikey, thick and green against the fields
Of fox tails waving to the east as we glanced that way.
At first the swath was worn by companies into three
Tracks: one clear, black sand; the two beside it, matted grass,
Leading us up past Sherman’s rich green acres to the right
And higher over the gray shingled shore to the left, where
Covered heads and backs crouched low, combing the leavings
By the driftwood webbing that snagged worthless treasures
Brought in by last night’s rough tide.
Luminous the calm waters over Admiralty Inlet spread constant,
Vast splendor of the fading turquoise horizon of Juan de Fuca Straits.
Gleaming furrows of the tilled fields had a distant meeting
Beyond the red-winged blackbird balancing on the fence line.
Rising further, the path retreated along the wild ridge, stitched
In firs and patches of Oregon Grape merging on shimmering borders,
The nature of our minds wakened in the see-saw of thought,
As the brown buntings we noticed hovering before, alighted
Like illusionists on the soft silk of fragile stalks,
Waving light as air, bowing them double with their scant weight,
A moment’s bare clinging, then snapping like catapults into the breeze.
Emotion arising, the whistle of the blackbird perched on the post,
Grass heads brushed against our calves and feather ticked the bends
Of our knees, as bees led the way before our feet, without a drone,
At controlled and reasoned distance from our slowing footfalls.
Throbbing reflections on the dappled turquoise below met a bluing line
Where a solitary seal arced over and glided in its elemental quest
Out into the darker depths.
Throbbing reflections penetrating the inward currents
Washed the outer gleam from wide-eyed questioning—
What is that within me, self-directed in what direction?
Who is behind me?
Two hundred feet up we stood to gaze behind
At the boomerang arc of the strand stretching back.
Here, the grasses flattened down near the bluff’s edge
Brought us to rest on the next rise of the narrowing path.
We closed our lids to the blue dome.
A purple ceiling of the temple with a yellow eye pulled away
From my being, taking all noise, purpose, and thought,
Carried aloft on an ethereal balloon beyond geometry,
As Apollo might have lifted off once from his Delphic throne.
She, my wife not the oracular priestess type, lay suspended
In her temple at my side, always more practical, stirred
When she heard the drone of an airplane
Flying too close to her distant reveries,
or else the wind came and so the stars began to fizzle
as the breeze mounted against the cliff and strummed upon the grasses.
Then it grew quiet as a desert.
The first fire nearby was a simple, pink rose she plucked
To savor in her cupped hands the warm, sweet balm
And held it close for me to breathe, her eyes closing,
Indicating much more than the closing of the lids, that,
Bending down, in that floral bowl I watched for stars
Until her hands withdrew the fiery scent.
Sun at zenith, dazzled by the sky, righting ourselves
We faced further north, resuming the rhythm in earnest.
Epics took place between our feet.
Ranks of frantic ants crossed the trail, swimming
Through the dusty track, risking all the tribe.
One loner clung to the head of an upturned pill-bug,
Writhing like a many legged turtle, ant legs
Scrambling in the sandy grains, yanking at its load,
Going, going nowhere, getting but getting nowhere,
Just like Sisyphus.
A spider lay crumpled in the corrugated treads of a biker’s
Tire marks. A centipede, two inches of coild black chain
Wound around itself, a sun spiral in eclipse.
The trail twitched with injured insects as we rose
To the bluff’s height, where the wind was harping
A new harmony among the tattered pines.
Eerily, to the seaward, as if clawing a my ear,
An eagle held itself braced on the updraft,
Mere yards distant, wings rattling like bronze quills.
I heard no kite like it for stability,
And I saw its eye, an eye that truly looked,
I watched that eye looking, seeing, back at me,
Its acetylene stare, fearless and knowing,
Auspicious, tranquil as a living angel with a heavy brow,
Whose gaze transfixed me like alost lamb.
In one hovering moment, I felt a free-fall
Before the sky lightened again and turning away
Its beak with smoother-back white hair,
This propitious surfer dropped downward toward the shore
Following the arc of the bay, doubled by itsown gray ghost
Cast upon the shingle beach below,
Remaining in the open air, while I walked on in stumbling gait.
The wind dropped.
The water now so calm a kayaker might course crossways
Over the ultramarine veins of the inlet.
Small birds bobbed in the shallows.
Cormorants dove and held their search so long
We lost track.
Gulls, absent till now, rained down in shrieks of panicked
Consternation, fighting for a space
In the feeding ring around the gamboling seal.
Above Perego’s Lake, the trail ended and turned
Downward steeply to the beached whales of driftwood.
It was living on this edge, and transitions were made
In a moment.
Either we trace back the way we came or one carefully placed
Foot-fall down and bridge began to form that way.
She held my shoulders from behind, and together we made descent
As a centaur might onecehave ventured down a slope
When Triton’s horn called the dancers to the laughing waves.