The spring I turned nine they took me to the toad pool a quiet place, queasy with life. Fresh reeds at the margins meniscus quilted with skaters a stream of bubbles beneath the surface. We had jars and nets for alien nymphs. The sun was a blind eye misted like a cataract. He found one drowned pale and swollen against the silt skin peeled in loosed petals, dared me to touch rosaries of black spawn festooning the weed. I reached into cool water then drew back. A revolving frenzy, a ball of toads, at the heart a female, gravid with eggs, a cluster of males clasping her tight.

Jenny Donnison