Northern Leopard Frog

 

If on a hike or a jog

Through tall summer grass

You happen to flush

(With too near a pass)

That master broad-jumper

And handsome harlequin,

The motley leopard frog,

The blades to your shin

Betray but the rustle

And passing pied blur

Of the long clean bound

You blamelessly spur,

And waxing rather wistful

You may not wish to part

From this crafty boyhood chum

In its peerless body art,

And decide you will nab

The frog where it landed;

Then how often you’re combing

Far off empty-handed,

After much hide and seek

With this slippery fakir,

Whose possible whereabouts

Now include a half-acre.

But if and when it’s held,

How quick and slick and strong!—

So the handful that it is

It may not be for long.

This landworthy cousin

Of the waterside pickerel

Is already a prince,

With the non-figural

Art on the silk of its skin:

There is nothing prosaic

In the rich green-bronze

Of the feline mosaic,

The belly and throat

Of the purest ivory;

And the heavenward gaze

In which you can see

Dark gem and gold leaf—

You will marvel immersed:

What is in our dreams

That wasn’t Nature’s first?

 

In spring when the leopards

Are primed for a lover,

Their motors for croaking

Just never turn over!

I suppose a mechanic

Is one who would know

If the fault’s with the starter

Or their battery’s low.

But some nights in marshes

That frogs sing and splash in,

What seems to be lacking

Is sensual passion,

For the peepers and wood frogs

They rave by the scores,

While the leopards sound asleep

Since all we hear are snores.

But our ear’s not their ear

And that chorus besots;

Soon eggs turn to tadpoles

Turn to froglets in spots,

And then in grass jungles

These grow by the day

To fluster their chasers

And pounce on their prey—

That is, if their haunts

Are there to be saved,

Not stored or housed under,

Not poisoned or paved.

But now to that leopard

You have in your grasp

Like a minor fortune;

Just loosen your clasp

And the artful dodger

Was once in your keep,

For it’s back in the grass

With a gold-medal leap.

And you think it’s no sweat

To re-apprehend

That implacable jester?

Ha! The joke’s on you friend.

 

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