Poetry Series: Grade 7 | Science | Unit 8 | Dissecting a Frog; Turkey Crossing; Undocumented

By Tom Lagasse


Grade 7 | Science | Unit 8 | Dissecting a Frog

A sour fog permeates the entire second floor 

of St. Ann’s School and lingers

with foreboding.  

Is this what death smells like?

Several classmates gag and bolt. 

Under banks of cold fluorescent lights, Sister Theresa pries 

open the white plastic buckets.

Lifeless frogs are layered

one upon the other 

skimmed from a pond and packed, 

now preserved in pungent formaldehyde 

for a stable shelf life.

The smells of pond or swamp or decay 

are stifled, gone.


We work in teams

like pre-teen surgeons.

Sister Theresa gives each group:

First:  pin the legs, expose the soft underbelly, measure the length.  

Then: record the data on a sheet of paper secured to a clipboard.

Next: I offer to make the first cut.

With the scalpel – so small and sharp – I slice 

the thin epidermis, which peels away

like a plastic wrap stretched across a rack of ribs.

The second slice: the dermis.

We pin back the layers, exposing

the inside cavity, 

like the workings of a clock or laptop:

here are the frog’s perfectly packed organs. 

Sister Theresa tells us where to cut,
                                        what we see,
                                        how it works (or worked), 

the seven systems orchestrating in concert.

It is not the flayed frog that makes my stomach churn, but thinking

Of the tuna fish sandwich I will have for lunch in forty-five minutes.  

For once I am grateful for an empty stomach.

All these years later, I wonder:

instead of treating the frogs as things

to be sliced and studied, 

wouldn’t we have learned more 

taking a field trip 

to the pond, removing our sneakers and 

stepping into the cold black water,

where the primordial ooze cements us 

to the pond floor,

where tadpoles dart around us, 

where we feel the sunlight caress our skin, 

and we listen 

for the frogs’ mysterious croaking music.

A splash of pond water,      

free from fog.


Turkey Crossing

Early morning.  Mid-week.  End of January.  I am
driving to work and running on the fine edge of being 

punctual or tardy.  Punching the gas,
I race towards the bottom

Of the hill which spills into the fenced-in reservoir.
Speed downshifts to caution.  In the middle

Of the road a single turkey, armored in acorn
brown and regal bronze plumage, confidently

Stands anchored, like a crossing guard, and
shepherds the flock of six across to safe passage

Into what is left of the wooded wild.  This ancient way
interrupted by the pavement of human convenience.



The icy silence cracks.
The great horned owl’s
solitary call echoes
through the snow-
laden woods
meandering to
the stars.
Who needs to
record this truth,
to place it
on a Cartesian plane
or on a measure
to prove its worth?
Undocumented flurries
of song for audiences
increasingly alien to us.
We are not alone.