From a North American Field Guide Bought for a Birthday, Never Given: Rodentia
We didn’t talk frequently of porcupine tracks in snow or the ill-defined dentine pools of deer mice. Were we common or round-tailed or American? Hoary or silvery? We don’t talk at all now, but I could tell you the most primitive living rodent in North America can stomach rhododendron, and it even plans for the future, drying plants for winter. Can I answer all of your questions with questions? Is loss grizzled brown or yellow-bellied and does it come out from underground to sun? There are 23 species of voles in our country and together we have spotted none of them. Tell me something smooth like silky pocket mouse sifting sand for seeds, climbing stalks to harvest greens. To understand loss, I must understand the Texas prairie dog town that once covered 25,000 square miles, housed 400 million animals. I must understand how acres of tunnels refill. Or tell me how small are the ball-shaped nests constructed by our smallest mouse, tell me how softly do they roll.
About the Author
Emma DePanise’s poems are forthcoming or have appeared recently in journals such as Poetry Northwest, The Minnesota Review, The Los Angeles Review, New York Quarterly, The National Poetry Review and elsewhere. She is an MFA candidate in poetry and teaching assistant at Purdue University, a poetry editor for Sycamore Review and a co-editor of The Shore.