Phoebe Reeves

We are the only ones
who name. This tree,

its compound opposite leaves
and rough fissured bark,

is itself whether I label it
correctly or not—blue ash,

box elder—the chickadee
still raps her beak against

a narrow limb to crack an insect's
carapace and flies away with her prize.






This poem is the final movement in a longer work exploring, among other things, the power of naming in the natural world, and the odd beauty of the Linnaean binomial taxonomy. Though at first glance arbitrary, the correct name can be everything, as in this case, where a box elder remains unscathed, while a blue ash falls victim to the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), an invasive species native to Asia which is slowly killing ash trees from New York to Minnesota. One third of southern Ohio's trees are ashes.