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The Undertoad

The Undertoad


In the summertime, when I was a child,

we used to spend a week or two

                                at the Jersey shore.

How I loved each wave I rode,

                all that POWER;

                my body merging             smoothly

                                with the watery beach.

Then my older brother ruined it.

He told me all about the UNDERTOAD

and nothing's ever been the same.

Oh, I went back to swimming soon enough,

             (my water-urge functioned better than my fear),

yet my watchful eyes would sting with salt

             as I scanned the sand below,

looking for the warty little beast

who waited in the murk to drag me down.

I'm getting on in years … but …

the very THOUGHT of snapping claws still gives me pause

                (especially when the water's dark),

I still fathom all the urchin's spines in my behind

                and easily conjure up the rending jaws

                of some great up-looming shark.

I know there really is no “undertoad”

                and never was

                             not even in the deepest deep …

but when I feel that tug, the urge to wade right in,

I’m reminded that it’s hard to keep one's self afloat;

one has to look around, behind, beneath.

Why is it that we fear what we can't see?

What makes us turn our heads

                when we hear strange sounds?

Why do images of dread enlarge our pores

                and flood our vision when we sleep?

Why are there times when,

                                with nothing really there,

              we find our backs hurled up against some wall

              our hair tingling in the air, our lips curled,

              our teeth gnashing on the emptiness

                                of some exotic edge?

We  (ageless, ceaseless, endless) kids

                -- yearning for whatever's out too far    

                                or in too deep —

at heart it seems we can’t begin

              to fathom all the warts that grow

                            from deep within our aging skin.





Far away, and very long ago, as an undergraduate struggling to pay attention in an economics class, Anthony Hunt began writing poems … and has never stopped. A retired university professor, with a well-received scholarly book on Gary Snyder’s epic masterpiece Mountains and Rivers Without End, he taught courses in literature and writing in Nigeria, Maine, Puerto Rico, Poland, Croatia, and Taiwan. His poetry has appeared in Sargasso, Nimrod, Paintbrush, Phoebus Light, the Hampden Sydney Review, Fixed and Free-Poetry Anthology (2011 and 2015) and the Malpais Review. In November 2015 he was invited by Hunan University (Changsha, China) to be a keynote speaker on Gary Snyder’s poetry at an international symposium on “Literature and Ecology.” He has conducted classes in poetry on a yearly basis for Albuquerque’s Institute for Lifelong Learning for New Mexicans and has read poems at Albuquerque’s Sunday Chatter (formerly The Church of Beethoven) since its inception in 2008.