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Other notable works by Catherine Doty.
Killing a Frog
Killing a frog
is easier than you think,
especially a baby one that can’t hop
and doesn’t blink,
picking gently among the wetted rocks
not to swim
to drink, perhaps to play
within the confines of a shallow brook,
with curiosity but nothing like fear
A stone thrown here,
a stone thrown there
and still the baby one doesn’t jump
doesn’t scare, though he does
stare ahead (in growing dread?) until finally
a direct hit shatters his head.
No scaring needed now,
no caring no how,
just staring into empty as
the baby one dies
Another hit, and now his baby brain
lies, a pale green wafer, on the stone terrain.
I was there. I wanted to be.
I was not the only one.
But all I did was watch the killing done, though
I may have thrown a tiny little pebble, just one.
But I know I never hit him, I didn’t, I swear
(as if anything killed would care).
If anyone older had happened upon us then,
they wouldn’t have approved, but they wouldn’t
have made a fuss; or maybe, to sound
serious, just a bit of
For, after all,
we were only
The thing is,
of distance, age and time,
none for long has been my friend, none
has passed over the memory of this crime
to away and gone
to a merciful end. Never
ever for the unwitting stranger
to danger, to courage,
to caring, who couldn’t stop
a simple horror, but won’t
at the baby one
trying no longer to be a frog,
at the unfeeling fingers of
growing children, though
graced with the empty love
of Almighty God, from Whom
all blessings, brooks
and dead frogs flow.
(Originally published in the December 2003/January 2004 inaugural issue of Plum Ruby Review.)
I had to look at it twice before
I knew the shadow radiant and
fleeting was the boy
who never grew to be
you. Lean forever,
a flannelled figure looms
in the gloomy majesty cloaking
the offended dignity, perhaps,
of a dead ball New York Giant, stuck for
all time in the Ruthian Twenties. But
suddenly the simple radiance of a boy
overshadows all gathering
gray – a lithe form tapers
a drab uniform when simply
no one needs a custom fit
to play. In his own beaming way,
he has stung the ball to screaming
away any sullen rage the silent men
behind him, appraising him might
nurture to threaten the radiance joyfully
at play on this one day. Dad, your brooding
anger grown mad (colder yet
sad I never grew to know) came finally
undone a lifetime to the day radiance
embraced your shadow
like a son, till they beamed as
one with the gathered
gray on the lone
joy eagerly your smile, dying
in delight, will always know: a baseball
is in flight, and you lean forever
While you were busily
absorbed in dirt and spade work,
I was the clean one, gardener
of the barely begun, who, hapless
eyed your radiant smile,
grown expectant, grow
sad, and sorrow churn whatever
warmth soothed your heart
to dread. Too warm to be numbed
dead. Your tears would blossom
when I least expected them, and anger
threw me every time they did. So when a child
only of God
came true, plucked
by you, virgin mother,
from a squalid death at the end
of squalor, my resolve to be worthy of
the hero in you grew. And so, thank you
for the dirt and spade work. For the bitter
weeds you sadly churned
to flowers. For exulting
in words that sprouted oh so quickly
when I asked you, somewhat rudely,
“Well . . . how is he?”
(Originally published in Light and Life.)
The Apple of My Mind’s Eye
Lavish the luscious
milk of you; spread
all through my delicious
the body of my mind
to lead. But please don’t
to the sweetness of
an apple hugging
its core, before leaden
of my mind’s eye
to its sweet core,
If We Never Meet Again
You couldn’t wait
to “have babies with him,” a younger man
you barely knew, who aborted
by abusing you. Rage at me: I
turned in sullen silence away
from you. Pound my stupid
arrogance: it crushed all clues
that fractured none of me
and all of you. But please
remember: I never abused
of loving you – the dawning of
your love, I never woke up to.
Did babies awaken you?
James Keane resides in northern New Jersey with his wife and son and a menagerie of merry pets. He has been writing and revising his poetry over the course of the 100 years since he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English Literature at Georgetown University. His poems have appeared in The Tipton Poetry Journal, Half Drunk Muse, Lily, Plum Ruby Review, Open Wide, the Southern Ocean Review, poeticdiversity, Kookamonga Square, Ygdrasil, and elsewhere.
The First Time I Was Told to Fuck Myself
If he was playing possum
he played well—cupped paws
curled in self-reference,
orange tusks in a head
shaped to divot the very air.
There, I’d been told, was a meal
for a smart black family,
with possum gravy, buttered grits
and biscuits, and something green
long-stewed with salted pork.
And so I presented him (he was a him,
playing possum on his back
in the tallest weeds) to Roscoe,
our neighbor, kind Roscoe
who dragged home iron
and lengths of pipe,
and could be seen sinking
his dark hands into our trash cans.
Long after the ugly words,
the flying bottle,
long after this shame
grew blunted by other shames,
I carried with me that meal
I had envisioned, the fear
as I lugged that creature
by his tail, not that he might
be dead, but that he might
not be, might thrust up
his punishing head and slash
my hands, then zig into the traffic
of Marshall Street, never to waken,
headless, skinless, gutless,
in a perfumed and oily pan
on a bed of sweet roots,
to be praised and divided,
to be divided and praised.
For May is the Month of Our Mother
When jump ropes smacked the softening tar
we took turns taking Mary home. She was white
with a blue screw-off bottom, supplicant hands,
and a rosary rattled inside as she swung in our bookbags.
After supper is good for some, Sister Michael said,
or before bed. If you pray the rosary, Communism
will fall. When my turn alphabetically came for Mary,
I rattled her the two blocks up the hill,
but Catholic in our family was for kids, and Communism
was a word, not a stick or stone. My mother was tired,
my father was going to hell, I wasn’t up to fifty Hail Mary’s alone,
but I couldn’t just dump her there on my cluttered dresser
like a glowing, white, wimpled bottle of shampoo
while I climbed the catalpa tree or played pies with the others,
so I set Mary down on our suitcase-shaped Victrola,
and put on Mom’s Perry Como “Ave Maria”.
Mary stood on her snake with her begging arms out, glowing.
The sky in the window grew orange, the breeze carried lilacs.
Next, I played Nelson Eddy, “Ave Maria”.
Her one-inch face held too much sadness to bear. To cheer her up,
I played “Rum and Coca-Cola,” The Andrews Sisters,
and our souls were so open from all that ave maria that we threw ourselves
into the rhythm, and jumped on the bed, and I beat Mary
like a maraca in my palm, her burden of black beads clacking thick and loud,
until one slap too many cracked her right in half, and her beads
flung themselves to the floor, where they lay like intestines.
I learned then to use something right or leave it alone.
No, I didn’t. I learned twelve-inch Virgin, polystyrene, luminous ivory, black beads
in screw-off bottomran $4.95, or twenty weeks of allowance.
I learned too that Mary was real to crack like that,
and I saved a splinter of her shattered gown
and I know she is patron saint of the spring-cracked mind,
and mother of all who aspire to glow in the dark.
Outside the Mainway Market
Every day, our mother says,
kids die on those goddamned things
and she nods at the lone yellow horse
with the red vinyl bridle
and four black, shining hooves
like police hat brims.
Not only do we stop our five-part
begging, we walk wide around the beast,
though Mary brushes the coin box
with her sleeve.
Rigid in flight, the great horse’s legs
flange out toward us. Not one of us argues.
We hold onto our mother’s coat, cross
several streets, touch the dog we always touch
when we walk home, fingering
his freckled snout. Then we scream
and run in the yard while supper cooks,
and the sky shudders pale for some seconds
before it darkens, as if in that lavender moment,
three blocks away, a child drops
the reins and gasps as his shoes fly off,
and plumes of smoke rise
from the crown of his hand-knit hat.
Catherine Doty is the author of Momentum, a volume of poems from CavanKerry Press. Her work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, among them Garrison Keillor’s More Good Poems for Hard Times and Billy Collins’ 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day. She is the recipient of a Marjorie J. Wilson Award, an Academy of American Poets Prize, fellowships from The New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, and other grants and honors. Ms. Doty has served as a visiting artist for the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, The Frost Place, The New York Public Library and other organizations.