Featured Poem

Jean Sprackland
The Birkdale Nightingale

Bufo calamito – the Natterjack toad

 On Spring nights you can hear them

two miles away, calling their mates

to the breeding place, a wet slack in the dunes.

Lovers hiding nearby are surprised

by desperate music. One man searched all night

for a crashed spaceship.


For amphibians, they are terrible swimmers:

where it's tricky to get ashore, they drown.

By day they sleep in crevices under the boardwalk,

run like lizards from cover to cover

without the sense to leap when a gull snaps.

Yes, he can make himself fearsome,

inflating his lungs to double his size.

But cars on the coast road are not deterred.


She will lay a necklace of pearls in the reeds.

Next morning, a dog will run into the water and scatter them.

Or she'll spawn in a footprint filled with salt rain

that will dry to a crust in two days.


Still, when he calls her and climbs her

they are well designed. The nuptial pads on his thighs

velcro him to her back. She steadies beneath him.


The puddle brims with moonlight.

Everything leads to this.








Poetry Review, Spring 2007 issue