Two Frogs

For Sayeed Jama

To hear “Two Frogs” read by the poet, click here or on the title.

The first floor apartment was home; Mr. Sargunam, uncle.

Mrs. Sargunam taught English at the 11th standard, some teaching

At college, and private lessons to foreigners–you, I and others.

Mona, Huda and you stayed with her; I may have for a week or two

Before the Aruldhases were found, and for about a year Mum sent

Money and six umbrellas (at one time!) through her. Seriously,

Vocation began here–the story of two frogs,

One from Osaka, the other Kyoto, eyes on the back

Of their heads. “From two cities, two frogs …,” proper,

Lady Mrs. Sargunam, alternately coughing–

Mannered, easing her lemon-wedged specs to her nose,

“Set to visit the other’s city.” Their visit is short

On a fictional hill between the two cities. Befuddled,

The cities are alike, they turn, return home.

I learned the story by heart, also by heart Mrs. Sargunam,

Scholar-wife, no homemaker, sitting for dinner café-style.

You left, enrolled in a Catholic school in the hills. Aruldhas’ daughter,

Beulah, pushed me, rewriting words forty-fifty times, literally mugging

As we used to say. We met one last time, Strand Hotel, Bombay;

Quizzing each other–Mona was untouchable in Indian civics,

My knowledge of anatomy defended the reputation of Adventist schools,

And you owned with skill images, permanent stay of faith,

Placed over blackboards in classrooms. “The Living-God,” you said,

Making plain a mystery, “is three-flavor ice-cream: strawberry, chocolate and vanilla.”

(Plain-mystery by which your son is now named

After the vegetarian dream-consultant to Nebuchadnezzar.)

Frog-fate, or no frog-fate, swear I see at times one

In these cities Kampala, Mogadishu, Jeddah, Nairobi, Boston.

I think in your den in Oslo, surrounded by sheiks requested by your mother,

You see the only one city, Lamb-lamp lit.