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My Field Guide

I’ve never bothered with the names of flowers,

though now I’d like this expertise to call

them out to you as we hike in.

But I would want their true names, not

the guide’s all-classifying explanations:

for yellow simple-shaped or odd-

belled purple cluster, I’d rather plump-girl-


and violet-prom-dress-circa-1960.

Or better yet, I’d have the words

that droning bee has just now written at

the throat of lakeside goldenrod. They must

be intimate—see how he calms between her?

His body, only evolution’s hunt

for agitation, yet the way he gentles at

her feathered mouth. Let’s call that… what?

Biology is obvious. Or choose

another name. No matter how you speak,

what language we might settle on,

the woodpecker won’t stop her rhythmic knocking

inside the arms of tamarack,

and we’ve arrived at birds and bees again.

But nothing is as simple, is it?

from One Above and One BelowFind it in the library

Copyright © 2000 Erin Belieu
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Published in Erin Belieu Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.