Toads, Viruses, and Climate Change
by Cynthia Pratt
Tell me about tomorrow or the next.
How it reaches into your belly,
reminds us we are going extinct.
I try to caulk over gaps and the
heat, too hot actually. Try to adjust
to sickness or death. Not me yet
but of course it could be.
Those others die without any
visual knowledge of me knowing them.
The heat is oppressive and the weather
dry like a toad’s back.
The wives’ tale about not rubbing it’s back
is still a memory. What else can reach
as far down as sad moments allow?
My hand warts up as a reminder
that I once believed. I smother the lump
with clear fingernail polish, a treatment
handed down from generations,
as if heat, and the unbreathing skin
will choke all viruses, cure that which
rocks out of kilter.
I Almost Sent You This Postcard
Have you seen a sting-ray
skeleton? The bones
fan out like a geisha’s
her painted skin,
but here, it moves through
film of liquid atmosphere.
The skeleton splays out,
too beautiful to sting,
but that is the deception
of beauty, isn’t it?
The bruise after the
violent, full-lipped kiss.
I’m visiting the sister with such bad luck:
bad husband, bad job, kids that were not easy.
Slender and neat, she chatters about San Diego,
her daughter, granddaughter, the granddaughter’s husband,
how large cities are difficult.
Asks questions but the space for answering
grows shorter and shorter.
I’m visiting my sister, the beauty queen whom
photographers begged for a pose for their portfolios,
the sister who convinced me I was privileged to
polish her shoes when I was 10.
The sister who had her younger sister
screen the men at the door, to see
if she was available.
Still, she is lovely, even now,
even when she has given up hennaing her hair,
gone to a softer pale red, or
maybe not, maybe giving up the tremendous
work of it, letting those thick natural curls go
entirely to what they want to be.
I’m visiting and I’m giving her advice
between the breaths that are mistaken for short pauses:
Try riding the bus to get to know the city;
see if the library has part-time work.
Me, the kid, who begged to try on her crinoline skirts,
suggesting a plan of action
and thinking of all those boys turned away.
If I knew it was the right time,
I would find fall
beckoning, the bark
course against my hand stroke.
I watch time ticking in circles.
I mind the waiting for the coming season.
Knots tick past me. I am a currach,
moored in an inlet, watching.
Write, please write.
Crows fall from the sky.
I know it’s food they are after,
my stomach knots.
Names hang onto sharp, thorned roses.
Even still, the boat, my mind,
drifts up and down with each leave-
taking, the bed between us a crumpled leaf.
I can’t make it right.
From shore, you wave.
I think it’s goodbye.
Roses dry in the vase you gave me,
dry strokes against my hand.
It is too late to face the fall.
I hear the crows caw
from my bed.
I cannot rise.
Under the nightstand a damselfly is dying.
Cynthia Pratt is one of the founding members of the Olympia Poetry Network’s board which has been in existence for over 30 years. Her poems have appeared in Crab Creek Review, Raven Chronicles, Bellingham Review, Quill & Parchment, Feminist Theology Poetry, The Raven’s Perch and other publications, and in the anthologies, Tattoos on Cedar (2006), Godiva Speaks (2011), two anthologies by the Fusion Collective, Dancing on the Edges (2017) and Garden of the Covid Museum (2021), Hidden in Childhood anthology and the anthology by Washington Humanities and Empty Bowl Press, I Sing the Salmon Home (2023). Her manuscript, Celestial Drift¸ was published in 2017. She is a former Fish and Wildlife biologist having graduated from Humboldt State University in Science and The Evergreen State University in the Master’s of Environmental Studies program. She was a former Lacey Councilmember and the Deputy Mayor of the City of Lacey for the last 12 years, with her term ending in December 2021. She is the first Poet Laureate of Lacey as of 2022.