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How had he known to call
scarlet tanagers scarlet or indigo buntings
indigo? Yet the words
were so fitting he saw when he sketched
the bow he’d witnessed after rain, copying
spectrums on birch peelings. Raindrops
shimmered too, clinging like buds to thin branches,
each glint hinting toward beveled glass,
crystal prisms, all that beauty to come. He saw
violet, yellow, red too deep to be called
red. He saw crimson float into pink, amber
relax into rust. All this time

he’d thought only the living
worth names. Now he saw
copper veins serpentine through iron, verdigris
coat gray stones, the curve
of a fossilized scarab darken shale. He noticed
how this shade of clay could be called brick,
how soil cooling his feet was jet, the crust
under his fingernails umber.

No one had taught him to distinguish
adjective from noun or excess
from abundance, yet here they all were, the words—
raven, canary, fawn, oyster—animals lending their names
to so many things they were not, all those bodies
that never took breath.

Lynn Domina

Lynn Domina is the author of two collections of poetry, Corporal Works and Framed in Silence, and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms. Her most recent book is a collection of reflections, Devotions from HERstory: 31 Days with Women of Faith. She currently serves as Head of the English Department at Northern Michigan University and as Creative Writing Editor of The Other Journal.