David Bristol

from TOAD


Happy Toad is certain
that the only thing more important than verse
is not smelling bad.

A song from a body
that would drown a rose
cannot be true.

Three wise men from Mary Kay
take Jesus balms and incense.
We light fires and sing for two millenia.

Roll it on,
this hope for perfection
and the muse will come.


Rainy, the street empty,
Toad, a little lost in the left lane,
passes the entrance.
Brakes, eyes the mirror and reverses,
begins a right turn into the lot.
Suddenly brakes again,
a cab out of nowhere smashed,

Turn the key
damage and injury within inches, almost.
25 years and nothing wrecked
beyond a smashed headlight.
No hesitancy in his moves it seems,

The corner of his eye wanders for a peek
in an animal curiosity of motion
and expectation.
The foot slows, the hand turns,
in fingers seemingly bred for 55,
and for survival,

Sleep and wake and drive off.
The continuing margin, slim and stunning




Happy listens to Beethoven,
swears he's the best.
Though he couldn't read a note
Toad tried, endeavored to explain
the glimpses he saw--intellect, anger, humor
there as full as Shakespeare
for the ear and not an archaic word
revealed in a geometry to he who sits.

The ear, passive organ that won't shut
commands the body to stillness
for piano notes.
A leg may jiggle, a cough or twitch
as the mind is drawn to sound
and no word, but clear.

Toad wants to explain it all--
a grand theory of art and perception
from the general to the specific
in axioms of sound.

Not yet.
Stumbling on half digested thoughts
and bright suspicions,
he changes the CD
to hear Mozart predicting Satie
and feel on course.


The you in the poem resisted him.
Calling to whom, telling what.
He would stand muttering to himself or him
for all to see and come to take.

You what? Toad had nothing to preach.
A few items he persisted to place on the table,
nothing major.
Products of eyes working, mouth working
and he would believe that in his hand.

Yes, he wants to be noticed
but the grabbing you bothered him.
Instruction was directing notice
while ego demanded the observer's drift.

Vanity wanted no second person.
A third person is sufficient,
alone, mopping his brow,
casting eyes upon the horizon.
First person looks upon the third
eyeing his universe in vision shared.
Then looks upon another in reflection, oblique
more humane for indirection--
a self in neighbor eyed, all greet.


Happy Toad wanted to be a number,
prime and obstinate as 23.
He is like that--
not easily divided and two words.

Knowledge of being indivisible he knows,
trembling at the thought of severing a limb
and being in a word, two,
had been Toad's sometimes fear.

It is the completeness of the number,
isolated and close, ranked and comfortable,
unlost and random.

One from 24, one over 22,
all different by the same.


Toad holds to the examination of the page,
gesture of mind and hope
content in a jar, portable.

Exquisite line, Toad held faith,
would bring a world.
Notes mae and notes heard
drift to abstraction.
The metallic sound of piano on a cheap radio
follows to the minute in the room
of this exposition and breath.

Against his belly he knows
a leaf of grass, in its ideal
is green in the full of life, yellows then
wilting on the ground it remains.
Here, thing, green eternal
or one golden waving as wished
inanimate but to imagine continuing.



These poems are from David Bristol's most recent book, Toad and Other Poems (The Bunny and the Crocodile Press). He is a practicing lawyer, and has been living in Arlington, VA for over 25 years. His poetry has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, as well as two earlier collections, Paradise and Cash (Washington Writers Publishing House) and The Monk Who Made His Mamma Happy (The Bunny and the Crocodile Press).

Published in Volume 3, Number 2, Spring 2002.