xMyFieldGuide.GIF52000/52051/poem-Belieu.asfhttp://img.slate.com/mediafalsefalsehere20011018111443PMThursdayOctOctober2310/19/2001 3:14:43 AM6313904368300000002001101924221AMFridayOctOctober210/19/2001 6:42:21 AM631390561410000000

To hear the poet read “My Field Guide,” click here or on the title.

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 know 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. So choose
another name. No matter how you speak,
which sort of 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?