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James Davis MayMay 16, 2024

There’s a sense that because we don’t see it
until it’s already here—its ghost-toned belly
pressed flat against the sliding glass—
that the tree frog reveals itself each night
like a vision, rather than what I know it really does,
which is to climb into view from some dark
mulchy haven beneath the deck’s diminutive jungle
of elephant ears and roses, feet secreting
an adhesive that makes this suspension possible,
which, though not flight, is just as impressive
and seems so much more stoic—no flapping
or tilting to make or catch a current,
just the grasping of the ungraspable surface,
then waiting for the feast the light provides,
those diaphanous bodies and iridescent wings.

Surely, there’s more to this life than just hunger
replaced by hunger—and by surely, I mean I pray,
which is why I’m out here in the dark now,
studying the light we live in and how the frog
is an almost imperceptible sliver in that light,
until I get close enough to see its body
has the brightness of an emerald
you might find in a children’s book illustration
and seems to glow in the yellow window glow
that from a distance someone going by
might mistake for perpetual happiness,
the sort we assign to the people who live
in the houses we drive past and benignly covet
without knowing anything of their struggles,
their cancers, strokes, divorces, and regrets.

If we could see the invisible saints
watching over houses, whether imagined
or not, or read the transcribed prayers
rising like heat through roofs each evening—
would we know more about hope or pain,
fear or safety? Would those saints
seem helpless or helpful? Would or could
it be enough to just know they’re there?
The frog will not be there in the morning,
just the loopy cursive its body carved
through the condensation as the meal progressed,
more board game path than scripture,
more chance than design, but still
a testament to both the absence and presence
of the life that pulses on the other side.

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