Tiger Salamander

The cistern is dry,
the iron lid sags on flaked brick,
and a crater is forming there,
in the yard where the held waters were.

Inside, where the held waters were,
shovel loads of dirt, ten seasons of leaves,
gravel, broken glass, these things indeed
crowd the plumbing.

But there, atop the loose bracing fill,
a striped and ancient thing resides,
caught in a stark column of spilled light
as I tip the lid – ambystoma tigrinum.

Tranced at the lip of the cistern,
wet leaves on the blade, my eyes fixed
on this lithe live ogee, green and black,
long as tales – as still as all that falls and fails.

Then, as if some great amphibian shame
were thus removed, the tiger lifted
its stout glossed head, slow squinted
among this foreign light, blinked twice, and
burrowed back into that shoveled earth night.

Image: Peter Paplanus at https://www.flickr.com/photos/2ndpeter/galleries

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