Bufo periglenes (Golden Toad)

Because his screech is melody and we are all in jeopardy
and all have golden toadsongs semaphoring in our throats.

Because the golden toad teaches us to flirt with day-Glo
explosive breeding excess and to only emerge between the dry and the wet—

though in the end all his flaxen chorusing could bring
no darker gravid female to climb, to clutch and hang upon

and his protective skin was also lung and kidney
a failed-canary early-warning for these coal mine days.

Because the true toad occurs on every continent except Australia
and Antarctica, and is toothless and sleek, deaf and mute

and all the scientists admit there was nothing like it anyone
had ever seen and nothing anyone will ever see again

we must memorize the numbers of decline: from three hundred or more
in each small pond, to twelve the next year, then one lone male in 1989.

and must not conjugate them into present tense
or in the understory and gnarled roots of the elfin forests.

Bring us back to the border of that April-May window and temporary pool,
to the small and bright gold enameled orange hue

that occasionally called out, perfectly patient, perfectly still,
before the end of that wild dangerous ride

like the second plague from Revelations in reverse
or the frog-in-the-moon eclipsing back into the oblivion of a black, human magic,

before the extremely dry El Nino year, the desiccation and larvae ungrown
before that fungus and blight as in a spell from Tubal and Jabal

could be ushered across oceans, on airplanes
in the dirt beneath our fingernails and the dust

lining the Vibram-soled hiking boots
of the new conquistadors.

Lisa Sewell is the author of two books of poems, The Way Out (Alice James Books), Name Withheld (Four Way Books) and a chapbook, Long Corridor (Seven Kitchens Press), which won the 2009 Keystone Chapbook Award. She is also co-editor with Claudia Rankine of American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics (Wesleyan UP 2007) and Eleven More American Women Poets in the 21st Century, forthcoming from Wesleyan in 2012. Her recent work has appeared in Colorado Review, Tampa Review, American Letters and Commentary, Denver Quarterly, New Letters and The Journal. She lives in Philadelphia and teaches at Villanova University.