Saving Lives in Chinatown


We were on a field trip to Chinatown.
A fish the length of a man's arm
lay on a pile of ice.  Its mouth
open, ogling our class.
Long purplish arms of squid
dangled like wilted flowers.
Everyone rushed
from display to display
fingering clams, holding up
blue crabs,
until an old woman
ran toward us shouting
in Cantonese.  Then
I saw them.  Everywhere
frogs had appeared
at our feet.  They were staring
at the traffic, watching
the light turn green.  It was as if a firecracker
had been flung at us,
confusion everywhere.  A few children
were stooping to pick the frogs up, but the woman
shouted louder, as if we
were thieves, our heist
sure to bring her to the brink
of poverty.  Then I saw
the overturned
tank.  Frogs were in the crosswalk.
I told my class, "Let's go."
The old woman was too busy
corralling her runaways
to trail us.  We turned
a corner and stopped. 
Who, I asked, overturned
the frog tank?  But no one
confessed. All the way home
I kept silent, watching
Kenny's coat pocket
twitch.  
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