Still Life

On the kitchen windowsill,
bleeding hearts spring
from a vase: the big garden ones
like pink, puffed-up pigtails around
their clitoral white centers; the smaller
wild ones in deeper rose, all pendent
from arcing pedicels.

Different leaves to either side:
fingered fine or coarser, in measure
to their blooms. Dicentra: two parts
around that intricate middle. Pollinated
within, they never quite open: just spread,
balloon, reflex, collapse, and drop,
like old hearts everywhere.

Above and behind, two broad green vanes embrace
a flight of “white coral bells, upon a slender stalk”—
lilies of the valley, designed to break
with their unbearable scent
every tame and wild heart, even before
they fall.

 

 

 

Ascaphus truei

in Latin, “tailed frog” to you and me. Only
one of its clan in the whole New World:
nearest kin, New Zealand. Frequents
such rivers as give Cascades their
name, fast and clean. Adults have
no ears or voice: why chorus in
noisy water? The male has a
penis in place of mere cloaca:
false, so called, but works,
so sperms aren’t flushed
away. Tailed tadpoles
have suckers to cling
in rushing streams.
Saw one today in
Lookout Creek!
Been looking
hard, these
forty-five
years.

Frog

 

 

 

Denizen along a Lower Columbia River tributary, biologist Robert Michael Pyle writes essay, poetry, and fiction in deep-rural southwestern Washington. His 18 books include Wintergreen, The Thunder Tree, Mariposa Road, The Tangled Bank, and several  butterfly standards. A collection of poems, Evolution of the Genus Iris, will be published by Lost Horse Press in spring 2014.

Photo credit: Cath in Dorset via photopin cc

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