Listen, can you hear them? It’s the chorus frogs—
Those intrepid little percussionists
Have waked to open Michigan’s rite of spring.
They’re the first frozen sirens to be thawed
In our melting wetlands near the mid of March—
Though true, their first rumors of winter’s death
Many a blizzard has pronounced premature.
But the pocket-comb harping we know them by,
That’s just the merest skeleton of a song—
A song with no flesh on the bones at all:
It can bring to mind a sonic scaffolding
These dauntless stagehands of the springtime raise
For all our singers and their songs of spring to come.
First to be heard; last, if ever, to be seen.
For you can lurk about till the hardwoods leaf
And never glimpse a calling chorus frog
As you can a wood frog or a peeper
When their choirs command the marshland air.
Where two alternate across a woodlot pool—
A duet or a duel it’s hard to say—
A chorus frog will lead you by the eardrum
To a tussock of wintering marsh grass
That eerily radiates his tympani,
While the timpanist—he’s nowhere to be found.
Is he a ventriloquist, you’ll wonder—
Or can songs awaken before their singers?
No, he’s tucked down deep in that dormant grass,
All inch or so of this clamorous mite,
Ballooning his throat as he serenades
In the flamy stripes of black on cinder gray
You’ll spy in summer, when he’s seen not heard,
In his silent wanderlust of the forest floor.
Though now and then on heavy summer days
When thundershowers have puddled the woodlands,
You’ll hear the lonely-sounding pizzicato
Of a single inspired chorus frog.
Fresh water for a few more tadpoles here,
Is, I suppose, his rain-call’s appeal—
If he’s not just clearing his rusty pipes.
But as in April, betray your presence
With a careless step near his secret stage
And he’s quick to schedule an intermission
To the performance you weren’t invited to.
Spring, when his rivals cut off one call later,
You can feel the whole chorus listening
Clannishly for your decent departure.
(All we love to hear in the natural world
We overhear: no one is singing for us.)
And that is one peeve of the chorus frogs:
They simply won’t suffer an eavesdropper.