Saturday, November 22, 2008


In my mother’s old copy of Andersonville, which she has never read and doesn’t remember buying, receiving, or bringing home, I found a bookmark that consists of a laminated eucalyptus leaf with a tiny yellowish-green frog perched near the stem. The frog is about a quarter-inch thick, with dark eyes slightly larger than the head of a pin. When I showed it to her, my mother didn’t remember the bookmark either.

The fact is, it might not be a bookmark at all. For one thing, the frog is too thick to allow the book to close properly. And when the leaf is adjusted to avoid the problem, a disproportionate amount of it is visible outside the book. It seems to me that the frog and the leaf would look much better in a terrarium, or perhaps in a decorative dish near the sink in a bathroom reserved for guests.

What would a frog be doing on a eucalyptus leaf anyway? I suppose if the tree the leaf had fallen from were near water, the leaf might be discovered by a frog and maybe even used for a time as a barge. Imagine a frog hauling rare insects in tiny cages down a narrow stream, and other frogs meeting him at landings along the way to purchase his exotic wares. Imagine muscular frogs working along the shore, laughing, singing, and calling out to one another as they drag the cages onto creaky platforms.


Like any frog,
at the end
of a hard day
I tie one on
at the nearest
sand bar.

I stay until
my wife croaks,
then I hop
on home.

To celebrate
our love,
I give her
eucalyptus perfume.

Ribbit on, she says. Ribbit on.

Introduction and poem from Collected Poems, written and first published “about two and a half years ago.”

Image: Frogs (click to enlarge).

In the Forum: The Three Princes of Serendip.


Joseph Hutchison said...

Once, when I opened my trusty dictionary, a ginkgo leaf fell out. Ginkgo! Suddenly I remembered staggering drunk one night in my late teens into a courtyard of Denver's East High School with my equally drunken buddy Jim Bednar, and there discovering a tree I'd never seen before: straight of trunk, slender of branch, with thickish fan-shaped leaves. I plucked one of those leaves and the next day, through a hangover haze, hunted in a guide to North American trees that my father had and there found an illustration of my very leaf. I then looked up "ginkgo" in my dictionary (also "gingko," it told me), tucked the leaf deep into the gutter to mark the spot, and soon (I'm sure) forgot all about it. Every detail came rushing back when the leaf worked loose that day. Had I been a frog I would have croaked, "Ribbit on!"

~im just only me~ said...

This reminded me of that chaotic scene in ET when the Elliot lets all the frogs free in biology class... love!

William Michaelian said...

Great scene. Frogs and toads are my heroes...

And Joe, your story reminds me of a little poem I wrote a few months ago:

Bible Study

Genesis is well worn,
and the Gospel of St. John.

But deep in the heart
of unturned pages

is a butterfly pressed flat,
exactly where I left him.

* * *

I do love the ginkgo — there was one not far from where we live that until recently looked like it was trying to put the sun out of business.

And now I’m thinking about a dictionary literally crawling with objects, things, ideas — a book full of fairy tale surprises that, when left alone for a few hours, takes over the entire house....

~im just only me~ said...

have you ever seen the children's books by Chris Van Allsburg? "The Mysteries of Harris Burdick" has a great drawing that reminded me of what you say about dictionaries crawling etc... You can find a scanned image of it below, however it doesn't do the lovely drawing justice, you get the idea though :D

William Michaelian said...

Hey, I like that. “Books Gone Bad.” I’ve seen Van Allsburg’s books, The Polar Express and so on, mountains of them piled high in bookstores, but I’ve never actually read any of them.

~im just only me~ said...

They're hit and miss :) The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is really the best (because they say so little), I think :) I just remembered that he wrote Jumanjii and Zathura, which they also made into films...

William Michaelian said...

Yes, Thus Spake Zathura — oops, my mistake, I was thinking of Nietzsche.