When All You Have is Good Intentions and a Toilet Brush

Walter gathered them by flashlight
from the edges of the festering pond
behind his house.

Bufo Marinus. Cane toad. Their pupils are horizontal. Their irises, golden.

When Walter talked back,
his father would take a freshly cut chili pepper
and rub it across his gums.

Glands behind their ears seep a poison.

Walter’s mother wore
shiny nylon nightgowns
while driving around town
in a cherry red van.

Absorbed through the eyes, the poison may cause pain and temporary blindness.

My mom told Walter to stay away from our house
and so,
in the release of night,
he slapped his bare feet
over to our driveway,
where he tipped a bucket
and ran.

The male mating call sounds like a distant motorboat.

When we drove up,
our headlights fell upon an army.
My mom walked slowly through the field
of bumpy backs and low leaping.

Once inside, she shook an entire can of cleanser
into the bathtub.
The toilet brush in her hand poked at the air,
like a torch, like a sword.

Published in Tule Review 2017