Innocence Lost

Talk of an unhinged jaw sent me plummeting
into my twelfth summer at the lake
a Brooklyn girl in rubber boots and a barefoot
local boy, pants rolled-up to his knees
in the muck as we explored the shallows
swamped with lily pads resting their crowns
on the lake’s skin and dragonflies flitting
as a little frog jumped into the orbit
of a snake, its body a muscle thrusting
forward, the tongue forked and fierce
as in one unforgettable fell-swoop
it swallowed the green stippled frog
my jaw dropped at innocence lost
the randomness of death
total extinction even as the sun teased
tiny yellow blossoms from the lily pads
and tongues of water lapped the dock
I remember little
of the local boy his face a blur
only the birch branch of his walking stick,
stripped of bark, pulp glistening from top to tip
where the elbow of a long gone limb
forked into a vee perfect for pinning a snake
as the boy with his free hand squeezed
the squirming muscle behind its head
and out popped the frog
tiny legs intact, eyes bulging, stunned
into a frenzied hop, leaping
the way we all do
into sudden redemption.

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