Terrance Hayes (November 18, 1971 -)
The father begins to make the sound a tree frog makes
When he comes with his son & daughter to a pail
Of tree frogs for sale in a Deep South flea market
Just before the last blood of dusk.
A tree frog is called a tree frog because it chirps
Like a bird in a tree, he tells his daughter
While her little brother, barely four years old,
Busies himself like a small blues piper
With a brand-new birthday harmonica.
A single tree frog can sound like a sleigh bell,
The father says. Several can sound like a choir
Of crickets. Once in high school, as I dissected
A frog, the frog opened its eyes to judge
Its deconstruction, its disassembly,
My scooping & poking at its soul.
And the little girl’s eyes go wide as a tree frog’s eyes.
Some call it the “spring peeper.” In Latin
It’s called Pseudacris crucifer. False locusts,
Toads with falsettos, their chimes issuing below
The low leaves & petals. The harmonica playing
Is so otherworldly, the boy blows with his eyes closed.
Some tree-frog species spend most every day underground.
They don’t know what sunlight does at dusk.
They are nocturnal insectivores. No bigger than
A green thumb, they are the first frogs to call
In the spring. They may sound like crickets
Only because they eat so many crickets.
Tree frogs mostly sound like birds.
The tree frog overcomes its fear of birds by singing.
The harmonica playing is so bewitching,
The boy gathers a crowd in a flea market
In the Deep South. A bird may eat a frog.
A fox may eat the bird. A wolf may eat the fox.
And the wolf then may carry varieties of music
And cunning in its belly as it roams the countryside.
A wolf hungers because it cannot feel the good
In its body. The people clap & gather round
With fangs & smiles. The father lifts the son
To his shoulders so the boy’s harmonics hover
Over varieties of affections, varieties of bodies
With their backs to a firmament burning & opening.
You can find damn near anything in a flea market:
Pets, weapons, flags, farm-fresh as well as farm-spoiled
Fruits & vegetables, varieties of old wardrobes,
A rusty old tin box with old postcards & old photos
Of lynchings dusted in the rust of the box.
You can feel it on the tips of your fingers,
This rust, which is almost as brown as the father
And the boy on his shoulders & the girl making
The sound a tree frog makes in a flea market
In the Deep South before the blood of dusk,
Just before the last blood of dusk. Just before the dusk.