What We Lost in the Swamp

Boys do not kiss boys. They catch frogs.
Is what I told myself the second it happened.

& there we were, hidden in the hemlocks of a secret swamp.
Your lips drifting away from mine like a silent ship

leaving harbor. Gone, as quickly as it came. I watched the shame
leap into the pond of your face. O the ripples.

How good we were at turning moments into paper,
into things we could crumple up & throw away.

You grabbed the frog squirming in my palms
& headed to the “cave,” to the crack between the rocks,

where the black & white striped garter snake
slithered into shade. How I wish I could say

that I stopped you, that I didn’t watch unhinged jaws
spring out like lightning, wrap around that poor

& unsuspecting frog, but I did.
Still too young to believe it, I wanted to see it

gone, eaten, that green & slippery part of myself
buried in the belly of a beast.

From What We Lost in the Swamp (Central Avenue Poetry, 2023) by Grant Chemidlin. Copyright © 2023 Grant Chemidlin. Used by permission of Central Avenue Poetry.