Although it’s midwinter, the dream

of the toads sings through the chill,

seething and simmering and filling

the day, conjuring riper seasons. 

Walking by the half-frozen marsh,

I let that dream enhance me

with those primal russet passions

Thoreau enjoyed but resisted

in light of the Enlightenment.

The collective dream smokes from

holes where those creatures hibernate.

It congeals and becomes audible

like the flight of an arrow

the instant before it strikes you.

Thoreau thought all nature spoke

through this dream. But no one else

seemed to hear it. I wouldn’t,

either, if I weren’t walking alone

with my head empty as a shell

on a beach. The toads don’t care

who overhears or shares their dream.

The tattered look of January

after a couple of days of thaw

conducts the electric shudder

of the dream of the toads as surely

as a glance conducts illicit desire.

I’m tempted to slog across the marsh

and approach the source, but the ground

looks mucky enough to absorb me;

and the ice on the shallows, despite                       [stanza break]

a glint of sun, looks sad and gray.

The dream of toads keeps fluttering

inside me. But when I get home

it dissipates like a vision

of a richly upholstered future, 

divinely sparked, soon forgotten.

Artwork by: Henri Rousseau (le Douanier)