Poet's Notebook: Froggy days

A visitor with a fabled past gets what’s coming to him: a poem.

click to enlarge Poet's Notebook: Froggy days
Jeanne Meinke

Last October a frog came to visit us, clinging to the slanted roof of our mailbox, just below the nightlight by our front door. We don’t think he knew that he’d chosen a house inhabited by an artist and a poet, but he was an exhibitionist, and it’s a good fit. Now it’s February, and although he occasionally leaves to visit family, Froggy’s still with us, spurring us to write and draw. In our minds we’ve thought of his fables (e.g. kissing princesses), and then of amazing and often erring swimmers in search of gold and fame (e.g. Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte), and slowly a poem emerged from the muck of my mind to squat on our lily pad, the Poet’s Notebook. 

(By now we know Froggy’s a carnivorous bully, like our president, which I wasn’t going to mention, but now 17 more schoolchildren have been gunned down and our president and senator and governor have all talked about this without mentioning the word “gun,” not to mention “AR-15.” I can’t write about them now — it’s sickening and repetitive — so, to calm us down for a moment, here’s the poem.) 

The Frogman

The frogman lives in water  his eyes

breaking the surface below his weeded brow

The endless hours pushing through the pool

his underwater croaks like drowning cries

no turning back allowed  not then or now

on choices that were made for him in school


When he was squatting on his lily pad

he heard her sing beneath the weeping tree

and knew she was the princess of his dreams

her little feet  her pale translucent hand…

‘One day’ he thought ‘she’ll reach that hand to me

I’ll be the swiftest swimmer in the stream’

And so began his days of back & forth:

the muscles of his legs and shoulders swelled

his lungs puffed up the more he held his breath

He swam from east to west  from south to north

until he reached the Kingdom of the Bells

and he was set on victory or death

The day he won the race and gripped the prize

the judges bowed  acknowledging his skill

She stood beside the throne and saw his look

reading that princess story in his eyes

so when the King pointed she ran toward him until

she was close enough to swing  

                                                and sank the hook

Coda:  The King’s Motto

In all these tales  you can strive to leave the bog

and sometimes truly leave it — but to us: you’re still a frog

Peter Meinke is the poet laureate of Florida. His latest book of poems is Lucky Bones (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014), and he has published two collections of Poet’s Notebook columns: Truth and Affection: The “Poet’s Notebook” Columns from Creative Loafing (University of Tampa Press, 2013) and To Start With, Feel Fortunate (Poet’s Choice, 2017).

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