Friday, October 5, 2012

Song of Eryops

There was an age when amphibians ruled the Earth.
They were fiercer in those days. Toothed frogs. 
Salamanders dressed as crocodiles. Electric axolotls.
Their king was Eryops, a lumpish brute
who, as despots do, declared himself the apex of evolution.
Just think of the power of being equally at home
on dry land and in the drink! The proud beast didn’t see
the price of that compromise, that by straddling both worlds
they mastered neither. And so, what do you imagine happened
when he led his people inland? The sun squeezed them dry, of course,
and there was no pond to soak their crackling skin.
And so the amphibians were forced to reluctantly adapt.
The most stubborn -or cowardly- of them slunk back to their soggy homes
to be replaced by creatures who had made up their minds
about which side of the fence the crawled upon,
who were brave enough to leave the muddy banks behind.

Of course, though their reign is all but forgotten
the amphibians are still with us, and they thrive,
if more humbly than before. Their domains shrunken
to puddles and ponds, they govern from beneath stones and logs.
No longer behemoths, most of them are small enough
to squirm in your palm.
Eryops throws back his lumpy, misshapen head
and bellows, filling the sticky air with his song,
lamenting for a kingdom lost, then lumbers away
to stuff his mouth with prey
to stifle his sobs.

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