I love the way they sit

Norman MacCaig: three, yes, three poems about frogs and toads from his collection One of the Many Days

Just Because I love frogs too; because toadstones; because the toad under the door reminds me of Roger Deakin’s house*; because my husband is having a passing fad for the word sprawling and keeps using it in all the wrong places and -pop- here it is, legitimately, in a poem.

Frogs

Frogs sit more solid/ than anything sits. In mid-leap they are/ parachutists falling / in a free fall. They die on roads/ with arms across their chests and/ heads high. 

I love frogs that sit / like Buddha, that fall without / parachutes, that die / like Italian tenors.

Above all, I love them because, / pursued in water, they never / panic so much that they fail / to make stylish triangles / with their ballet dancer’s / legs.

Toad 

Stop looking like a purse. How could a purse squeeze under the rickety door and sit, full of satisfaction, in a man’s house?

You clamber towards me on your four corners – right hand, left foot, left hand, right foot. 

I love you for being a toad, for crawling like a Japanese wrestler, and for not being frightened. 

I put you in my purse hand, not shutting it, and set you down outside directly under every star.

A jewel in your head? Toad, you’ve put one in mine, a tiny radiance in a dark place. 

My last word on frogs 

People have said to me, You seem to like frogs. /They keep jumping into your poems. 

I do. I love the way they sit,/ compact as a cat and as indifferent/ to everything but style, like a lady remembering /to keep her knees together. And I love /the elegant way they jump and /the inelegant way they land. /So human. 

I feel so close to them/ I must be froggish myself./ I look in the mirror expecting to see /a fairytale Prince. /But no. It’s just sprawling me, /croaking away /and swivelling my eyes around/ for the stealthy heron and his stabbing beak.

*Roger Deakin’s ancient moated Suffolk farmhouse sounds like a dream, you can read all about it in Notes from Walnut Tree Farm and Wildwood and see Justin Partyka’s photos here. In chapter 15 of Waterlog he remarks on “the garden toads that often stray into the kitchen… When i pick them up to carry them back to the vegetable garden, where they are supposed to be on pest control duty, some go quietly without a murmur, but with others there is an unseemly struggle as they try to escape, and they perfume my hands with the slightly noxious imitation venom that is supposed to make you drop them in disgust.”

About ballsofwool

knitter, mum, thinker
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