That miniature mudslide—the toad!
Is he not overdue an ode?
If you've gone so far as to kiss
A toad native east of the Miss
And no prince arose from a squat,
Think American Toad on the spot
(Though the Fowler's, you should remember,
Is a less abundant pretender).
He winters snug deep in the earth,
Clawing out at the vernal rebirth,
And soon he will chorus and spawn
In waters where toads will be drawn,
A creek or a pond or a pool
Where for days his calling can rule—
And it's not a crank or a bellow;
No, it's a finely trilled falsetto.
He'll fight and mate and splash about
And not long after clamber out,
Leaving water to his cousin frogs
And punctuating pollywogs;
He'll be living off the land
In his handsome hide of sand.
It's not unlike our human sorts
To saddle him with our own warts.
Well, if warts he has and many,
Then the crime's we haven't any.
The arid Southwestscape he wears
With all the buttes and knolls it bears
Let your thumbpad lightly trail
And it's a poem in mystic Braille.
He's earthy like no other—
The child most like Mother.
But how his changeless gaze unsettles!
Those eyes of onyx and precious metals!
Those eyes were cast or pearled
In some other far-off world.
Still, don't wait for him to show
What he knows or doesn't know;
He's inscrutable from habit,
Like an enigmatic abbot.
His legs are short and so his hops
Are seldom more than serial flops
That barely lift him off the ground,
But that's the way he gets around
Through woods and fields and thickets
Making meals of ants and crickets,
And ever-watchful of the prowl
Of grackle, snake, raccoon and owl,
Though with poison glands upon his back
To most he'll prove a toxic snack.
His tadpoles as their nature bodes
Midsummer morph to micro-toads—
It's a hopping insurrection
Of miniaturist perfection;
Hundreds swarm a sandy shore
Adobe crumbs and not much more,
And though four upon a dime can sit
They're a fully featured vertebrate.
Has got America on us—
On all of us, on you and me,
The Chippewa and Cherokee.
So we ought to beg his pardon
Where we meet up in a garden,
And thank him for his stellar role
In voluntary pest control.
He's found in unexpected places,
Pressed into the tightest spaces,
So shrewdly undercover I
Have wondered if he weren't a spy;
In fact he much prefers the night
To days the summer sun is bright.
If there's more to him than I address—
Well, you'll never force him to confess.
Snatch and take him in your palm
And expect to register his qualm.
He won't get loud or mad and madder.
He'll coolly empty out his bladder.