Toads and Petroglyphs by Sharon Waller Knutson

Toads and Petroglyphs

Get up lady, the five-year-old says
as he x-rays me with dark eyes
and rips the sheet off my body.
Groggy on codeine and penicillin
after a yanked molar, I blink.

You’re mean lady, he says
when I snatch the Coca-Cola
and Hershey bar from him
and fix him a glass of milk
and bowl of granola for breakfast.

Catch me if you can, he shrieks
as he runs out the door of the RV
and up the hill behind the house site
where his father and my husband
carry logs and place them on the ceiling.

I give chase and heart valve flopping,
lose my balance, but he pops out
from behind an Ironwood.
Hanging onto the tree, he grabs
my hand and steadies me.

You’re pretty cool lady, he says
as we see Sonoran toads swimming
and serenading us in the Indian Baths.
We walk up to the rocks and he jumps
with joy as he views sketches
of his Native American ancestors.

Can you spare a dollar lady, he says
at twenty-years-old as he stands
on a street corner, arms and neck
tattooed like the petroglyphs,
his dark hair dirty and disheveled.
His eyes muddy as his jeans,
he sucks on an empty Coors bottle
he picks up from the gutter.

Do you remember me? I want to ask
but the woman who points him out
keeps on driving, reminding me
that he was raised on the streets
by drunks and druggies and that’s
all he knows. But the mother in me
still remembers the five-year-old boy
who thought toads and I were cool
and she wants to take him home.


A Note from The Author:

Toads and Petroglyphs is a true story about a boy I only spent a few hours with but fell in love with. It saddens me to know he probably doesn’t even remember me and to see him living on the streets but I know I can’t save him.


Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014) and What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021.). Her work has also appeared in Trouvaille, One Art, Mad Swirl, The Drabble, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review, The Five-Three and The Song Is…

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