THE WHITMAN ISSUE

Ann B. Knox

 

TOAD

Burdock grows rank behind the barn, gnats
thicken the air where a shadow of hog-killing

lingers after decades. Wading the sunless path
through thigh-high weeds, something stirs at my feet.

I squat. A toad hunkers low to the ground,
brown, warty, with eyes reflecting trapezoids of sky

and three blunt fingers spread like the butcher
who unabashed leans stubs against the counter.

Without stir or shift of eye, the toad flicks
its tongue and a green wing angles from its mouth,

a jaunty cigarette, and like the eighth grade clown,
the toad swallows, wing disappears in a half-smile.

Jimmy Sandro did that, he made us laugh
and he challenged nice Miss Gwynn. She pretended

he wasn't there, but he was--always a rustle
around him, wind, a seethe in the current.

Once Jimmy touched me--on my wrist, his hand
light, fingerbacks dusty with brown hair--

and a strange heat rose from my belly. I knew
this was danger and the danger was in me.

Why do I think of Jimmy now? He worked
for his father, wrapped meat in butcher paper,

a loop of string, knots easily undone.
I wonder where he went--his smile, his quick

hands. Strange to recall the stir of him
here on the cold north side of the barn.

 

 

Ann B. Knox is the author of a new chapbook, The Dark Edge, published by Pudding House Publications, as well as two books of poetry, Staying Is Nowhere, winner of the SCOP-Writer's Center Co-Publication Prize in 1996 and Stonecrop, winner of the Washington Writers' Publishing House Prize in 1988. Individual poems have appeared in literary journals such as Alaska Quarterly, Nimrod, Poetry, and The Green Mountains Review. Her collection of short fiction, Late Summer Break, was published by Papier Mache Press in 1995. For 18 years she edited the literary journal Antietam Review. She splits her time between a cabin in the Appalachians and Washington, DC.

Read more poems by Ann B. Knox