by Catherine Wing
To the man who asked what I am good for,
a few words. It’s true my ancestral name
is unfortunate—two rough things unkindly
brought together—but while you can’t speak it,
musk is my language and rat’s the size of my tongue.
Also, my ambition. What you don’t know
would fill my burrow and its underwater entrance
twice over. With my extraordinary lung capacity
and my glossy underparts I made Hinterlands Who’s Who.
In 2012, it was my famous lodge, den, and bed,
that earned me Wetland Designer of the Year.
It’s true I eat sedge and cattail.
It’s true I lap up pondweed and duck potato,
bulb and tuber, and if forced
I will stoop to snail and salamander.
It’s true I am swamp and bog inclined.
I’m not picky.
My family’s ancient and well-represented
in the fossil record. I am rumored to be descended
from the Balkan Snow Vole with whom I share a molar.
I can swim backwards and I can hold my breath
for a full 17 minutes. Are you good for that?
I am not a beaver and I am not a rat.
Call me what you will but I am native.
How rich for you, destroyer of habitats,
to accuse me of destructiveness, to blame me
for your leaking pond. I understand
that you think yours is the only story to tell
and that your way is the only way to tell it
but I have news for you.
Musk is how I sing, talk, love, woo, and warn.
It is my sign of bigger things yet to come.
You can’t ice me over or push me out.
I will defend my bed, my burrow, and my craft.
Afterall who among us in this world
is not born blind and furless, given a name
by others and called to account?
Eastern ForktailLindsay Barba
Common MilkweedDelilah McCrea
Showy OrchisBill Newby
American Witch-hazelQuartez Harris
Common CarpDavid Hassler
Common PawpawIsaiah Back-Gaal
Common Garter SnakeCait Young
Common DewberryPeter McWilliams
North American River OtterAnastasios Mihalopoulos
Winter FireflyIsaiah Hunt
Giant Leopard MothAlex Saba
Virginia BluebellsBronlynn Thurman
American RobinKari Gunter-Seymour
American CrowJason Harris
Eastern CottontailEros Livieratos
Bald-faced HornetKJ Ceranowski
Poverty OatgrassHaylee Schwenk
Song SparrowVirginia Konchan
Wood DuckDiana Lueptow
Japanese HoneysuckleShei Sanchez
Yellow BullheadTed Lardner
Funeral BellTishon Woolcock
Common DandelionCora Liderbach
Splendid Earth-Boring BeetleKortney Morrow
Snapping TurtleJessica Jewell
Poison IvyMarina Vladova
Pharaoh CicadaCathy Barber
Northern Dusky SlugRay McNiece
Big Brown BatSujata Lakhe
Barred OwlCourtney Noster
Long-eared OwlMichael Loderstedt
Isabella Tiger MothLeah Graham
American SycamoreMegan Lubey
Water Forget-Me-NotAlyssa Perry
Yellow-dusted Cream MothCass Penegor
Painted-cup PaintbrushHilary Plum
Masked BeesZach Savich
TrilliumKimberlee Medicine Horn Jackson
Eastern Tiger SwallowtailKira Preneta
Great Blue HeronDan Dorman
American SweetgumCaryl Pagel
Painted TurtleRebekah Ainsworth
Green DarnerMarion Boyer
American BeaverKatie Daley
Eastern Screech-OwlDr. R. Ray Gehani
Spring PeeperBarbara Sabol
Eastern Carpenter BeeSylvia Clark
Jacob's LadderRisha Nicole
Candleflame LichenClara Britton
Eastern NewtElizabeth Ryan
American BullfrogLaura Grace Weldon
American ChestnutCarrie George
American GoldfinchMarybeth Cieplinski
American Giant MillipedeMary Quade
American HornbeamJeff Gundy
American White WaterlilyGeoffry Polk
Artist’s BracketSusann Moeller
Banded Fishing SpiderCharlie Malone
Common Star-of-BethlehemBrita Alaburda
Common StonefliesKaren Schubert
Eastern ChipmunkNathan Kemp
Eastern Tent Caterpillar MothZachary Thomas
Eastern Red-backed SalamanderTovli Simiryan
Firefly BeetleJacquie Peoples Dukes
Gray CatbirdTheresa Brightman
Great MulleinLaurie Kincer
Green HeronPaula J. Lambert
Interrupted FernKathleen Cerveny
Meadow VoleRoberta Jupin
Monarch ButterflyDeborah Fleming
Pearl CrescentMonica Kaiser
Poison HemlockJon Conley
Red-Headed Ground BeetleBob King
Star JelliesCameron Gorman
Sugar MapleSteve Brightman
Turkey VultureAndrew Gilkey
White-footed MouseMichelle Bissell
White-tailed DeerBenjamin Rhodes
Wild CarrotJessica Jones
Traveling Stanzas community arts projects bring poetry to people’s everyday lives through innovative methods and digital platforms.