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Field Guide
Be the brown bear and the honeybee,
the finch and the squirrel

both too picky for this birdseed.
Be the real train rattling

past the clenched model trains,
and be those too, damp,

printed with small-hand sweat.
Be the anglerfish with its dark

relationship to light, and be
the shadow puppet duck

who lives along the ceiling.
Be the pine needles and

keep calling them “hay.”
Be a new vowel, an open one.

In the whorls of your hair
be an impossible map, and in

following that map be
a detour into a coconut grove.

Be the lion and the whip,
the icicle and crunch of winter

grass underfoot. Be louder.
Be the rod and the spoils.

Be the bucket of hairs and
the shirt that grows and grows.

Or be a grown mule hauling
your mother and me down

a cliffside gravel path, and be
the canyon backdrop

we ignore. Be the cracked
spine and the uncut pages.

Be two rogue daisies and
the merciful gardener.

After the bath be the schooner
dry docked in a flamingo blanket,

gaff-rigged like a pirate
and slick of foot, laughing,

kicking, laughing. And after
the rains be the water strider

grown too fat to stand above
the surface tension of the puddle,

little predator, indiscriminate
feeder ours. Be the temple,

and be the apostate. Be the legs
like bamboo in their visible

growth, and be the favorite
pants, worried to comfort,

their thin knees presenting
each thread. Be the curved

slide and the mulched tires
waiting like earth at the end.

From where in your elbow
I pulled you apart, be

resilient, be the gorilla
slipping your tears quickly

into laughter, and from that
laughter be the doctor

who snaps your tendons into place.
Be all these arms, their presence

like the net around a trampoline.
Be the apple, and be yourself

eating it in the shopping cart.
Be the door with no house

around it, and be the air
slowly nudging it open.

Be the sycamore of Berryman
and the sycamore of Wells,

strangers embracing
through a mirror. Be the city

bus and the school bus.
Be the sun’s difficult salutation

and our squints into it. Be
an orange rind thrown at highway

speeds from the passenger
window, glowing in the snow,

and be the orange-vested
convict stabbing it like trash.

Be the sitcom and the lonely
critic, the genuine laughter

looped to a lie. Be honest
as a kitten, and be the kitten’s

unpracticed claws. Be
apricot trees and bracken,

be blackberries and bromine,
our messy, mathematical world.

Be the dried paint left like a scab
on a borrowed shirt, and be

the friend who never mentioned it.
Be the lamb and the wire’s barb.

Be each brick, and be the building.
When the vase begins to crack,

be the eye that prefers it, a lover
of wobble. Be a voice for no heifer

and no priest, but the unseen town
they left behind. And be the voice

that calls that town into being.
My son, be the praise song

pushed at the impossible sky. Be
still as an old couch and be still

beside me. My son, be
forever. Be small forever.

Dan Rosenberg is the author of cadabra (Carnegie Mellon University Press) and The Crushing Organ (Dream Horse Press). He has also written two chapbooks, A Thread of Hands (Tilt Press) and Thigh’s Hollow (Omnidawn), and he co-translated Miklavž Komelj’s Hippodrome (Zephyr Press). Rosenberg chairs the English department at Wells College, where he also edits the Wells College Press Poetry Chapbook Series.