Of Frogs and Polliwogs


Our favorite creek sprang polliwogs in early summer, every summer. We could, but did not, count on it. We trusted in reliable pools of polliwog and the whole she-bang, the place, our family, ourselves.

Fat, black bodies color the water. My brother and I pulse with glee as we try to scoop them up with pop cans we found along the creek banks. We want a frog hatchery in the bathroom, or if mom protests, maybe, we can take a shovel and build a pond in the backyard. My brother offers his tonka trucks for the project. Their black bodies are slimy but solid, like smoked oysters.

They’ll transform into croaking frogs. We’re children. We don’t want to be much more than we are right now. We want to be here at the creek catching polliwogs, being children.

We run those pop cans the mile home. Shawn’s legs can’t keep up with mine so I wait under the Valley Oak. Becky, don’t run. He yells. You’ll hurt their bellies. I tell him they don’t have bellies. They have torsos. We walk the rest of the way, sneak the cans in the house and dump the polliwogs in the bathroom sink. My mom never said a word.

At eight years old, I didn’t know, didn’t believe that I had any limits of energy, of imagination, of courage. That anyone or anything did. Now, at 32, I fear the edges of my efforts. That I will not cobble together something good, a thought worth pursuing for the dissertation, the next article, the next project. The moments of my life, washing dishes, reading theory, grading papers, pulling weeds in the garden, folding my son’s clothes feel frantic, like I must hurry, I must rush, for it’s not enough, my efforts will not suffice. I can’t scoop up the polliwogs fast enough and I do not trust they will return.

I’ve been trying to stand on my head all summer. I’ve spent hours kicking my feet into the air, trying to hold head stand, to take deep breathes with my body suspended, to rest upside down. Half a second. On a good day, I can hold it for half a second. My husband laughs at my yoga practice, not a laugh of derision, but of admiration and wonder. “You? Sit still?” he says. “Hold a pose?”

In garland pose, an obscene spread-leg squat where my chin touches my knees and my rump my ankles,  I resemble nothing more than a squatting frog. Sitting, resting in that effort, I don’t think about much more than my screaming thighs and how I really hope no one comes to the door. I can’t hurry garland pose, I can’t beat it with a frenzy of energy. Garland pose says sit. Garland pose says breathe.

By Big

Written during the BWP Summer Institute


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