Burdock grows rank behind the barn, gnats
thicken the air where a shadow of hog-killing
lingers after decades. Wading the sunless path
through thigh-high weeds, something stirs at my feet.
I squat. A toad hunkers low to the ground,
brown, warty, with eyes reflecting trapezoids of sky
and three blunt fingers spread like the butcher
who unabashed leans stubs against the counter.
Without stir or shift of eye, the toad flicks
its tongue and a green wing angles from its mouth,
a jaunty cigarette, and like the eighth grade clown,
the toad swallows, wing disappears in a half-smile.
Jimmy Sandro did that, he made us laugh
and he challenged nice Miss Gwynn. She pretended
he wasn’t there, but he was–always a rustle
around him, wind, a seethe in the current.
Once Jimmy touched me–on my wrist, his hand
light, fingerbacks dusty with brown hair–
and a strange heat rose from my belly. I knew
this was danger and the danger was in me.
Why do I think of Jimmy now? He worked
for his father, wrapped meat in butcher paper,
a loop of string, knots easily undone.
I wonder where he went–his smile, his quick
hands. Strange to recall the stir of him
here on the cold north side of the barn.
Walt Whitman Issue, Vol. 6:1, Winter 2004.
Ann B. Knox (January 31 1926 - May 2011) is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Breathing In (2011), Stonecrop (WWPH, 1988) and Staying is Nowhere (SCOP Publications, 1996); two poetry chapbooks: Reading the Tao at Eighty (Finishing Line Press, 2008) and The Dark Edge (Pudding House Press, 2004); and a book of short stories, Late Summer Break (Papier Mache Press, 1995). Knox taught at The Writer’s Center, the University of the District of Columbia, and John Hopkins University. She edited the Antietam Review for 18 years and was a poetry editor at Washington Writer’s Publishing House. To read more by this author: Six Poems, Vol. 5:4, Fall 2004.