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.
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.