“Augury” by Jennifer Griffith

Jennifer Griffith


I’d been bleeding for a year when we unsexed the frog. 
Cold and pungent from formaldehyde, it lay with limbs 
splayed and pinned to the tray. The science teacher 
lectured about the arrangement of a frog’s organs, how 
similar they are to ours, that dissection helps us learn
the way our bodies work too. We’d been studying 
frogs for days; my lab partner and I were sick of them, 
so, we relieved ours of its reproductive parts, flicked 
them out the window, chipped pink nails launching 
tiny gray entrails to the snowy pavement outside
the decaying junior high that looked like a penitentiary.
Inside, biology was wild; boys dumped bottles of fox lure
in the radiators, stole a Fiesta Barbie from the Spanish
lab, denuded her and hung her from the cafeteria blinds. 
Someone in homeroom had a crush on me, but he smelled 
like cigarettes and dirty socks, was in the slow courses,
and went around with sticky streaks of pot resin down 
the legs of his jeans. It’s called “amplexus” when a male 
amphibian wraps himself around the female and releases 
his sperm on the tapioca pearls of her eggs. In French class,
our teacher smeared crimson lipstick on her mouth like a wound. 
She came to school sick most days and taught us the language 
of the body: maux de gorge, maux d’estomac, la jambe blessée,  
Or, like a certain frog, malade dans les trompes de Fallope,
malade dans les ovaires. In the third-floor bathroom, I watched 
a tall, blonde eighth grader pound an anxious, primitive 
rhythm on the broken Kotex machine. A scarlet Rorschach 
bloomed across the ass of her white pants, the red blot shaped 
like West Virginia, or maybe a human heart, la coeur.
When tadpoles turn into frogs, their external gills move 
inward and evolve into lungs. In water, frogs breathe 
through their skins, but they cannot feel love. My own body 
had become a violin; some days I thought if I drew a bow 
across myself, I could cry a concerto. During study hall, 
the boy behind me arranged my long hair in a pile on his desk, 
lay his head down in it and slept. I listened to the soft 
sounds of his breath while I did algebra problems—oxygen, 
nitrogen, variables, and equations mingling in the air. 

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Jennifer Griffith: “I began writing poetry when I was a child and have always been fascinated by why we remember some things in our lives and totally forget others. ‘Augury’ came from my exploring various moments I recall from middle school, and, through writing the poem, I discovered that those seemingly random memories, whose commonalities appeared to be only time and proximity to one another, were actually topically and symbolically analogous and revealed a body rather than just an assortment of parts. So I guess you could say I write poetry to galvanize fragments into flesh.” (web)

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