The Tomato frog (or election season at the California Academy of Sciences)

by Paula Stacey

Locating the creatures in the glass
cases is mostly a Where’s Waldo
kind of effort. A snake with skin
the texture and color of branches,
a head flat and serrated like a leaf
hides in plain sight. But not
the Tomato frog, which sits brazenly
on view like a piece of cheap terra cotta
pottery. It shimmers with a glaze
of toxic goo. A twitch in the goo,
a ripple across the skin, and it comes
to life, growing big with air
as if preparing to make a speech
or sing an aria. Its garish red would
signal danger, or at least something
unappetizing, if the system
were foolproof. But animals
with faulty photoreceptors see green
when they should be seeing red.
Others, like a harrier-hawk tired
of circling without a meal, can only
attend to one evolutionary imperative
at a time. Having fixed their sights
on the Tomato frog, they are too hungry
not to make the dive.

Paula Stacey is a writer and editor living in Northern California. Her poems and essays have appeared in Mid-American ReviewDunes Review, and Education Week, among other publications. She has recently completed a novel for upper-elementary students entitled The Gravity Problem.

Photo by: Ana Prundaru