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William Doreski

Toads in Early Spring

At mid-day, huge slobbery toads

slug up through the melting snow.

I collect them like truffles

and place them in sun-warm beds

of pine needles. They work their bellows

for awhile, then stretch baggy skins

 

and leap as big a leap as fat

old toads can leap to greet the spring.

I’m so toad-like myself I slot

easily into that role, stretching

my rumpled hide and striding

rather than leaping around the yard.

 

The snow and slush and ice storms

broke limbs and flattened shrubs.

My various specimen trees—

redwood, larch, ginkgo, blue spruce—

suffered limb-loss and topping

as starved deer crept from the woods

 

at night to plunder my estate.

The warm toads look as placid

as upholstery. Their gaze feels

prehistoric against my skin.

I want them to account for winter—

their lives in form-fitting burrows,

 

their lack of food for many months.

But with their flat expressions

they refute the very notion

of language, replacing it

with nothing I can detect.

Maybe I also should embrace

 

silence large enough to rebut

the gnawing world. One more toad

wrestles from the snow, and I place it

in the sun where it uncrumples

to warp itself to a landscape

only toads can wholly achieve.

Image by Sanved Bangale

William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021).  He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.

About the Artist