The sun was hot in the sky
like a muffin in a bright blue tin.
The day was just the day.
The wind was nothing more
than wind, the leaves were leaves
and kept on being leaves.
Frog, however, wondered why
he was Frog and Toad was Toad.
Frog knew who he was,
but this strange morning
he feared he was the wrong one.
His skin felt too clammy,
his eyes too bulgy.
Even his pajamas seemed
that of another creature.
Everything was wrong:
the trees overhead; the birds in them.
Toad, on the other hand,
woke up troubled by how
different he was than Frog.
To him, Frog, was wholly
unknown and unknowable.
The yellow flowers outside his window,
the waterbirds down by the lake
that arrived only in winter,
the dreams of alligators and snakes
that swam through his sleeping,
all made more sense to him
than this Frog in his threadbare
suit and flappy feet.
How odd they both wanted to fold
into the foreign skin of the familiar,
inhabit the Frog and Toadness
of the other—
It is Toad who will understand
to love the unknown is to say yes
to the ineffability of difference.
And Frog shall find himself
stunned with a recognition
that to love the miasma of mystery
is to say yes to sorrow,
yes to the presence of absence,
yes to the chance that alethia
may never rise out of the pond.
Frog makes Toad some toast
with strawberry jam.
He waddles across the room,
sets down the plate,
pours Toad a cup of coffee.
The sun is hot in the sky
like a scone on a sky blue table.
Toad looks over at Frog.
Good old Frog, he thinks.
That bastard knows I hate toast.
Toad spreads the jam like a man
might smooth mortar on a brick
for which there is no building.
Thank you, he says,
Thank you Frog.
(from his book Works and Days, Truman State University Press, 2011)
Dean Rader's 10 Greatest Poets Project for the San Francisco Chronicle was covered by The New Yorker and the New York Times.