The Plague of No Frogs

 

I was gazing over

A summering pond

 

When it arrived

 

From five or so feet

 

And half a world

And millennium

 

Away:

 

Kawazu tobikuma mizu no oto.

 

Frog-jump-in-the-water-sound!

 

And I had to laugh

At that moist exclamation,

 

That miniature catapult

Of hysteric dread,

 

The cry-and-plop

Of that leggy plunge

Through the pond’s

Self-sealing green mantle—

 

It’s the very hiccup

Of the overfed,

Life-engorged waters

Of late summer:

 

Frog-jump-in-the-water-sound!

 

And then

It hit me—

 

A Zen Master’s

Slap in the face:

 

No frog-jump-in-the-water sound.

 

No frogs leaping to safety—

 

No safety for frogs

To leap to—

 

A Biblical plague of no frogs:

 

No buoyant

Bi-ocular gaze

From the duckweed.

 

No raincalls,

 

No choruses

From the thawed waters

Of spring,

 

No tadpoles

Thieving gulps of air

From the reigning kingfisher,

 

No pollywogs in Mason jars

To punctuate the run-on summer

Days of childhood—

 

A poisonous absence,

A punishing silence:

 

 

No frog-jump-in-the-water-sound.

 

Save us, Basho—

 

From the plague of no frogs,

 

From our mindless globetrotting

And desolating immoderation,

 

From the lure

Of the Unreal,

 

From the extinction

Of hope

 

And the many secret caretakers

Of our souls.

 

Show us, Basho

 

How to measure our way

With only footsteps

And the few words that matter.

 

Help us

 

To topple the idols

That demand we worship

Only ourselves.

 

Keep us, Basho

 

From a life

Without covenants,

 

And a desecrated Earth

Whose only revelations

Are those of Oblivion.

 

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