Tree Frog

A rape survivor’s moderately non-literal response
to a country’s monumentally unthinkable decision.

[And yeah, GOP Senators: I’m looking at you.]

* * * *

I would believe myself one of the Stoics, born again, if I could.

I would convince us both, if only I could believe, that the fire I have undergone tempered me like steel, rather than reduced me to bone chips and fragments of teeth. The debris of a mortuary’s kiln.


Understand: I have long since abdicated belief in humanity’s innate goodness. Our impulses may tend always to sociability, to companions and to tribe. But—friends, a family, a troop of bullies, a rape gang, an army, a Senate… In the end, how is difference measured?

We learn to live with our hungers—to make peace with them—or we never learn to live. The trick is how to soften into one’s fear, whether of connection or abandonment. To sink, to collapse gently, yet still stand tall. I settle myself in the chair and reach for vulnerability. Try to let myself go, to let myself turn soft.

Soft like a paunch, my anger whispers back. Soft and bloated like a liver gone rotten with cirrhosis.

Even after transforming, the butterfly will fear what once made the caterpillar sick.

* * * *

I still cling to my sharpest hunger like a knife, fearing vulnerability may drop me again into lockstep with another self-proclaimed messiah. They already litter my history, all with slogans shouted louder than my own. Yet, in the quiet underneath, I am longing to be seen. I ache to be touched in the dark, mossy softness of my soul, where mushrooms bloom overnight out of a muck that once resembled green leaves.

At the very center of me sits a tree frog, tiny and sharp-colored as a gemstone, with suction-cup toes at the end of elongated fingers and its throat a translucent bubble swelling into song. (How can I tell you this? That my heart is a jewel-bright tree frog no bigger than your thumb. That my soul is a forest filled with raindrops, cool and damp, stretched above brambles and decay. How do I dare clear out such underbrush, if clinging to it hides my damaged roots from view for even one more day?)

Better I should tell you: my love is a blister raised red and hot like a welt upon the skin, and no one will question you if you despise it.

I no longer remember how to let my own throat sing. A throat too still, too long, petrifies into amber; the once-sticky trickle of sap that ran down it hardens into a memory so distant and dim we call it legend, and go on about our day. As for you: do you remember? Do you remember what it is to grow tired, to pluck ripe fruit from a vine, to soften your lips into a kiss…?

My eyes are gray stones pulled from a river. Unblinking, unseeing, they gaze upon the night.

[Love to you all, my friends! I have been missing you. ~alice]

Image: Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas) by Geoff Gallice from Gainesville, FL, USA derivative work: B kimmel [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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