You have been hunched on the sofa all evening, trying
to drag something up, to force it to manifest
in the dark, take shape out of shadows
it’s not what you think it never is, is it?
when you get up to fill & boil the kettle
you’re caught in the hall the carpet splits
spits a notch of itself out stretched
into legs, striped flanks, that tiny brilliant
your heart leaps up
one by the front door, on the way in
you make your drink
one by the back door, on the way out
you gather each as you find it distinguished
by movement release them out of the door
they seem closest to achieving
you are saving them or thwarting them
you need to understand how their world is mapped
alone in the house, and the first two frog night of summer
the heat has passed you lay the duvet back on the bed
you declare Frog Season heralded by the rain,
the closing of the school gates, the gurgling drains
when you regain your post, you’ve a new sense of purpose
a tiny moth circles the halo of the lamp
you wait for the rest to arrive
Each night before bed I check for frogs.
I count frogs to bring myself to the limits of sleep
or mammalian life. To stand apart
or together. Two at the threshold. One
perched on a blue plastic bag by the garden
door. One muddying the dark
between his legs as I launch one out
into the flowerbed. One wriggling round
the hinge of the front door as he opens it for
the one still tickling in my hands. Two
hopping in opposite directions in the hall.
One trying to phase to spectral in the bathroom.
Soon enough the passing of weeks
is measured by size of frog. When one
apparates by the cupboard solid
enough to hold tight in one hand without crushing
or wiggling through I think pond life
is complete. But more sprout out of the skirting,
flimsy as pinkie fingernails, flinging
their camouflaged bodies at our feet. Pond life
is forever. Pond life is ours. The carpet
wavers in the dim pond light like water
thickened by movement and weeds.
Polly Atkin lives in Cumbria. Her first full poetry collection Basic Nest Architecture (Seren: 2017) is followed by a third pamphlet, With Invisible Rain (New Walk Press: 2018). She is a Penguin Random House WriteNow mentee for a non-fiction book reflecting on place, belonging and living with chronic illness.