horned toads :: richard schiffman

If they were about a thousand times bigger,
no one would think them cute anymore;
their unswerving reptilian stare might appear
life-threatening rather than goofy and endearing.
As it is, their antediluvian rock-like posture,
leathery dorsal spines, ashen-scaled underbelly,
general lack of elan vital, not to mention ambition,
good looks and animal magnetism, disqualify them
from the World Wildlife Fund’s list of charismatic species.
Still, they soldier on with all the squat charm of armored
vehicles hunched between a bayonet yucca and a mountain sage
awaiting lunch, or to become some raptor’s lunch–
whatever the next roll of the Darwinian dice ordains.
Poster children of the food chain, they never complain,
just do their lizard pushups, swivel turret heads– then wait.
The toughest muscle in their body is the heat-seeking missile
of the tongue. If you mess with horned toads, they’ll spit blood
in your eyes. With two pinholes for ears, they can hear an ant
scurry from a foot away. Dust-colored, cold-blooded, gumby boy
pterodactyls from the bottom of nature’s cracker jack box
hugging their square inch in the sun.