From a North American Field Guide Bought for a Birthday Never Give: Rodentia

by Emma DePanise

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.