Issue 14
Field Guide

One hundred thousand generations of field mice ago
it was our first summer
in the gray clapboard house.
At first we saw them in our periphery—
speeding along baseboards, and because we were
children they both delighted and terrorized us in equal

measure, like all things that were in a state of tender balance
that summer;
flour and baking powder, salt and pepper, things
that were broken, things repaired,
spoke and wheel, malaise and memory,
love and exhaustion.

One morning in the kitchen there they were,
hours old, born sometime in the timeless part
of night,
in the darkness of the silverware drawer,
a makeshift mouse barn where just
one sliver of light penetrated the cracks in the wood.

We had rushed the drawer
clamoring for spoons,
starving in the perpetual hunger of growth,
as the air hummed slightly,
our heads still warm from traces of wool blankets
with satin trim, and our own young breath—

yet our feet were so cold steam almost rose from them
as mornings then
were so much colder than mornings now, one hundred
thousand mouse generations later.
All the walls in the house were a robin’s egg blue,
except the kitchen

which was a pale yellow, lighter
and softer than but not unlike lemon.
In the drawer they fit together like thumbs
In a tight formation of milkiness and air, risen
like yeast bread.
Even our mother

who was genuinely afraid of them
was rendered speechless,
a natural improbability for her,
and noticed that
upon closer inspection they
had paper cuts for eyes

and small ears like tiny folded napkins
and feet like feet—
and it occurred to her
as this feeling of grace came over her
that this was a sort of miracle.
In the lemony kitchen

each of us, pale and pink—
with hair not unlike the various nests and webs
in the gray house—
stared into the drawer where they lay like spoons
and squirmed slightly, so unfinished without fur.
Our breathing was steady and even, in sync with the unknowable

vibrations all around us, in cadence with the air
threading its way through the dense mountain laurel.
We stood near
our mother, a disheveled goddess
with robin’s egg blue eyes and yellow hair,
and, in this

In the kitchen the curtains
drew breaths
as the day began to ripen.
Outside the twitching of ferns,
under the endless canopy of leaves,

the baritone frogs,
the flattened places
where fauns
had slept.
And field mice. Millions
of field mice.