Joshua Sutherland Allen

Joshua Sutherland Allen

Monday, August 31, 2015


Three tadpoles inhabit my front stoop,
Tenants of a flower vase from my mother’s house;
She scooped them up and put them there
One day while keeping my daughter.

It was a project they started together:
“We’ll watch and see how they grow,” they said.
Grandmother and girl caught the creatures,
Gave them their glassy home,

And then forgot about them.
And so they are mine to keep,
And mine to feed –
A little dried cabbage every few days or so.

The water is mine to aerate,
And the vase is mine to clean,
And switch out for a shallower pan someday,
So that the tadpoles can jump out when they have legs.

Flicking tails the tiny amphibians swim,
Ever curious about the giant that gives them cabbage
And stirs their water every day or two,
Breaking up the shadows where they hide and play.

They swim and grow, almost twice as big now
As they were the day they brought them home.
Soon their legs will emerge and tails disappear,
And I watch and wonder,

If someday they may be eating size.
Is it that kind of frog?  I cannot say,
But when I see them now, I envision
Those young, new legs fried on a plate.

Perhaps I am more like a frog
Than I would care to admit:
I can marvel at the mysteries of new life,
But in the end my appetite wins.

I do hunger and thirst for righteousness,
Also for knowledge and wisdom,
But most days these are easily conquered
By hunger for comfort, good food, good drink.

I like to think that I am good in my career,
That I make some difference in the lives
Of the students I teach; that I am
Something positive in my community.

But most days, I am like a frog:
Swimming to and fro,
Aimless and darting,
Trying not to be eaten.

I know, from them, the crucial truth,
That however big or great you may become,
There's always something, or even someone,
Who will eat you:

For each Achilles there is a heel,
A harpoon for each great whale.
Every Caesar has a Cassius,
And every Lincoln a Booth.

So when I go home this afternoon,
I plan to salute my little friends –
My fellow pilgrims through this world.
And give them some extra cabbage.

This I plan, that is,
Unless the cat has gotten in,
And in her scheming mischief,
Has eaten them before I arrive.


  1. The conflict between being righteous & mischievous ~ you described it well.

  2. The poem starts innocuously enough, with a grandma and her granddaughter momentarily bonding over tadpoles, only to forget them and leave them in the mother's care.

    I really liked the symbolism of frogs. Humans, despite their lofty ideals and ambition, are usually defeated by their baser instincts. The ending sent a chill running down my spine. I hope your tadpoles remain safe when you get back home. And I hope your poem gets many more views and comments.

  3. Love the narrative portion and also the philosophy....

  4. Love the philosophy behind this exquisite piece :)
    Beautifully executed :D

  5. Ah.. we do have that choice.. and maybe we need to be a little bit of both don't we?

  6. Really loved as the story unfolded and great symbolism here....but no, no, no eating the frogs. Mine grow into frogs that swim in my pond.


  7. The philosophy of a man with a good heart! Loved this.

  8. A wonderful tale...i love how you expand your thoughts and knowledge with each verse

  9. A interesting use of pet care to make a larger point. Well written.

  10. You are very good at telling stories that hold the interest all the way through.