Harping

By Judy Rowe Michaels

Featured Image: Cattleya Orchid and Three Hummingbirds by Martin Johnson Heade, 1871
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

While most of us are grieving

something—cold spring lost child dead-end
lyrics that won’t resolve,

the spadefoot toad, who bears
a gold lyre-mark on her back,
is crazy-busy with what science calls

explosive breeding. Rain says Go,
and up from culvert cistern over porch and patio across roads
the fraught migration of spadefeet slowly breaches
our borders to breed in our ponds.

Flood of toadlets in just three weeks, pop pop,
with tiny golden harps, how will this
end? We run them down
coming or going, then pronounce them
rare, so we

love them, make posters, poems—
(Old moss-grown pond—a
toad jumps in to breed pop pop
poppoppoppoppop)

We can’t say they’re unnatural, or blame
the job rate bad schools gang wars (unprotected
sex?), but tiny golden harps

seem suspect artsy irresponsible un-American.
All night trill thrills,

while most of us are grieving.


Judy Rowe Michaels is a poet in the schools for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foun- dation and recently retired English teacher, Michaels has two books of poems, Reviewing the Skull (2010, Word Tech Editions) and The Forest of Wild Hands (2001, University Press of Florida). A chapbook, Ghost Notes, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Michaels has been a MacDowell Fellow and has re- ceived two poetry fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. An ovarian cancer patient, she speaks to New York City medical students via the national program, Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives.

Originally appeared in NOR 17

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