“Basho’s Frog” by Marvin Bell

Marvin Bell


The plop of Basho’s famous frog
when it leapt into the pond,
thus seeming to pierce the ancient water,
which circled and instantly resealed itself,
offers us the chance
to crack the silence that overtook
the empires and their far flung armies
by hearing again that which
the armies could not kill. So, too,
those who traveled to New Zealand to see
the full eclipse firsthand were able
afterward to feel again the shiver
that overtook the land when the night arrived
ahead of time. And to remember
the cries of the roosters when it was over.
Basho’s frog at the plop!—
it’s the provable moment to be registered
among the plopping and croaking and wind
shaking the cherry blossoms
out of the trees while we were still on the road
going to see them.

from Rattle #29, Summer 2008


Marvin Bell: “It’s true that, no matter what, the literary world is full of insult. When you put yourself out to the public, you’re going to get some negative stuff. But writing just feels wonderful. I mean, I love the discovery aspect of writing. I love that. I love saying what I didn’t know I knew, not knowing where I’m headed, abandoning myself to the materials to figure out where I’m going. Of course your personality is going to come out of it, of course your obsessions are going to make themselves known, of course if you have a philosophic mind a matrix of philosophy will be behind things; everyone has a stance, an attitude, a vision, a viewpoint. All that will come out. But in the meantime, you’re just dog-paddling like mad. And that’s fun. That’s what I always liked about every art.”

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