A museum specimen now, the Coleman frog lies
under glass that keeps cynical fingers
at a safe distance. Fredericton’s Nessie,
this monster bullfrog hand-reared
on buttermilk, whiskey and bread
to a whopping forty-two pounds
by Fred Coleman, Victorian innkeeper
who flogged that oddity with the chutzpah
of a sideshow barker. Legend goes,
he’d come when called
by Fred’s dinner bell, and stuffed silly
on human fare, he stretched to man’s length—
five-foot-six from snout to webbed foot.
Until one day in 1885, death forced him to decline
Fred’s invitation to dine, and the bobbing frog
floated into Fred’s grieving arms.
He had the bugger stuffed, insisting
the taxidermist twist the lips up at the corners
so they might smile on the Barker House Hotel lobby.
Had Fred looked closer, he might have noticed
instead an ironic smirk on his unwitting mascot.
So legend goes. A few miles
from the York Sunbury Museum,
at Killarney Lake where Coleman once angled,
the amphibian population goes belly-up
along with those around the globe:
so many canaries in the coal mine
of our boundless exploitation.
A monstrous quiet spreads across
the lake’s surface and invades the sedges.
Coleman’s frog poses for one more photo,
looks sceptically back at tourists
through his magnifying-glass eyes.
His lips painted permanently shut
to preserve the dream of mutual goodwill
now grown dry and brittle
as centuries-old papier mâché that would collapse
inward at the slightest pressure.
by Jesse Patrick Ferguson, Fredericton, June 9, 2010 (posted with Jesse’s permission …. thanks Jesse!)