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Natural History
by Maralee Gerke

    "The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names."
                           Chinese Saying

Once I knew the name of the maples
that drag their heavy leaves along the foggy pane.

Born into the mystery of fir and oak,
of trout lilies and licorice fern,
that world was familiar, ordinary.

Moody, but mutable
I have adapted to more arid climes,
bitterroot, sage, and juniper my new lexicon.

In the unpublished manuscript
of my personal field guide,
new trees, birds, and flowers

measure my immigrant status.

Transplanted into an unfamiliar landscape
I have pared down, become spare
finally the right shape for the desert,

but still remembering the old names,
never forgetting the love in them.


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