False Gods and Tree Frogs: Plate #66 by Maria Sibylla Merian

                                                         May my fear draw close
                                                         wrap its loving arms
                                                         around my paints
                                                         and squeeze.


At first I was afraid the breathing colors
would elude me and the red of the red-billed toucan
would fly into the swallowing trees.
I stand outside myself watching the hand

draw a doubleness and my mouth become
a green-flooded argument. My mind stained now with rare
reds and I am now intimate with its feet worm-inked and old-fleshed.
The frogs such a complicated presence.

I must capture them with my paints before they are eaten.
The snake’s tongue a flickering God before them.
One lies prostate on its backs pleading.
One sits sleepy under the shooting stars of pink flowers.

I hear the toucan squawking
as the snakes wrap themselves inside a tiny
death and the sleeping frog wakens and plops
inside the mouth of dark waiting water.


Carol Berg’s poems are forthcoming or in The Journal, Spillway, Heron Tree, Redactions, Pebble Lake Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and Verse Wisconsin. She has received a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her most recent chapbook, Her Vena Amoris, is available from Red Bird Chapbooks.