American Toad


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.

Bufo americanus

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.