The Love Songs of Frogs

In Panama mating calls of túngara frogs
are louder in cities than in rain forests.
The love songs they belt out are longer,
more alluring. They don’t croak, croak
like American bullfrogs, their pillow talk
goes beep, beep, beep. At twilight time
horny males seek a mud puddle of choice,
inflating their outsized vocal sacs
to serenade the ladies within sound
of their melodies. Urban frogs, it seems,
jazz up their numbers with staccato chucks
tacked at the end of their plaintive whines.
Tapes of urban tunes are irresistible,
prompting females to hop to the speaker;
whether city gals or country gals,
that syncopated crooning rings
their bell. In the forest male frogs
cool their repertoire—strident chucks
attract bats, snakes, other predators.
Thus it has come to pass that those
brown-skinned inch-long urban dudes
who switch the beat, hit the high notes,
know the score on how to score.

Concert Hall

The conductor stands between
a seated orchestra, a seated audience,
she is the woman with the baton
and has the power of life and death
over every instrument, a slight
movement of her hand and they
spring to rousing life or fall silent.
A priest faces the congregation,
not so the orchestra conductor.
She keeps her back to the audience
during the entire performance,
only at the end she turns to them,
they have been quiet, motionless,
pretending to be deaf to rhythms
throbbing through the hall.
At the end thunderous applause,
a standing ovation, the only chance
they have to make noise too,
clapping hands as if each secretly
longs to be cymbal or a drum.

Cuban Story

in memory of
Amelia Hernandez

One day in Havana ten students
ask to take the exam early,
as they are filling in answers
she notices a cheat sheet under
an exam book. She reports it
and is told, “The revolution
needs them.” As she leaves,
a friend says, “It’s dark.
I’ll walk you to your car.”
At home her father receives
threatening calls, is angry
with her for being so brave.
Students planted in classes
ask provocative questions
to test a teacher’s sympathies.
“Is the standard of living higher
in the Soviet Union or the U.S.?”
She replies everybody knows
it’s higher in the United States,
hears footsteps down the hall.
Realizing her mistake, she barely
has time to slip out a side door,
run to the U. S. embassy.