Under the Ice
by Holly Day
In the winter, I surround myself with pictures of frogs
statues of frogs, books about frogs, because you never see frogs
when it’s 10 below zero, and that’s the time I seem to really miss them.
When I go to the zoo, and I see the little poison frogs in their cages
it’s not the same, because it’s not like seeing a flat-footed toad
sliding down my office window in the middle of a rainstorm
scrabbling against the glass as if trying to get in
or when I go to my mother-in-law’s house
in the dead heat of summer, and find a tree frog
perched on top of her doorbell, or spying over the lip of a flower pot.
It’s not so much that I like frogs, but that I miss seeing them because it’s winter.
It’s not so much that I miss frogs, but I miss the weather associated with them:
the hot summer rains that cause tadpoles to sprout legs and spring free from the water
the way the lawn explodes with tiny brown toads when I start the mower up
the way my daughter used to dance with the frogs she found in the back yard,
around and around, like she was some sort of fairy tale princess
this is why I’m surrounded by motionless surrogates, these harbingers of spring,
always, and especially now.
The wasp climbs out of the hole it’s chewed in the rotten apple
stumbles drunkenly across the grass as if stumbling towards me.
I, too, have been drinking, and I have no desire to fight
am only interested in enjoying the warm sunlight on my face and shoulders
the cool, tiny feet of the occasional butterfly treating my arm like a perch
the soft cushion of grass and purple wildflowers pressing into my back.
I turn my head and watch the passage of the drunk wasp, track it
as it tumbles into a depression in the mud, emerging moments later
shaking its head as though it’s angry or laughing. I prefer to think it’s laughing
and I laugh, too, startling the finches congregating in the branches overhead
a couple of rabbits hiding in the tall grass nearby, even myself, a little bit
so out of place my voice sounds
in this world of buzzing bees and crackling undergrowth.
Cockroaches are one of the only insects that actually like to be touched,
are some of the only non-domesticated creatures
that crave physical attention, aren’t comfortable unless they’re wrapped
in the bodies of their companions, in the palm of your hand
tucked deep in the bottom of a shoe or the folds of a pocket or a hat.
If I had known that when we put the new wallpaper up
I would have left the cockroaches where they crouched, low,
against the wall, covered them carefully with paper and paste
circled the area on the wallpaper so I knew where they were.
I could have made it a routine to carefully stroke those circled spots
every time I went up and down the stairs,
knowing there was a little cockroach under there
contentedly gnawing on dried paste varnish
perhaps slowly tunneling a passage to escape
through the underside of the paper.
Holly Day (hollylday.blogspot.com) has been an instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her writing has recently appeared in Hubbub, Grain, and Third Wednesday. Hernewest books are The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), Book of Beasts (Weasel Press), Bound in Ice (Shanti Arts), and Music Composition for Dummies (Wiley).