Happy Taxonomy Day!

Photo on 2015-04-17 at 15.00 #5_2I just learned that March 19 is Taxonomy Day (thanks to artist Lauren Levato Coyne). My Internet connection has been wonky lately, suffering fits and starts. So I didn’t want to do a post with lots of links because it would take forever to write and post. But since I have a poem with the subtitle “Taxonomy,” I’ll post that instead.  In 2003, it was awarded second place in The Twenty-Fifth Jo-Anne Hirshfield Memorial Poetry Awards, sponsored by the Evanston Public Library.  Peace, love, and solace


How to know (Taxonomy)

Hard to believe.
While the doctor spoke,
she scanned her scant knowledge of microbiology:
rods and spheres and spirochetes.
Flashed to the boss who summed up
the world as inhabited by
foxes or pigs. Either you were
a fox or you were a pig. For a while
in the bar after the Christmas party,
they categorized all their co-workers
and she argued there were also cows and sheep.
After they nailed it down
to the mailroom clerk, they grew quiet,
fox or pig.
She feared he might make a pass.
Did it all come down to that?
Rod, sphere, spirochete.
Fox or pig,
smoking or non.

A contractor once told her,
when it came to door handles,
men like knobs, women like latches.
Knobs and latches.

On the drive down the boulevard,
great grammy says, “I’ve never given such notice
to trees before. They’re so green,
so lush this year. That one is square.”
Perhaps you cannot see the trees
for the leaves: oval, palmate,
linear, reniform, cuneate, acerose,
orbicular, hastate, spatulate.

Columbia River Valley waterfalls
are typed: plunge, horsetail,
fan, tier, block, cascade,
segments, and punchbowl.
“Wouldn’t you like to be water?” asks her son,
“You could fall and tumble and never get hurt.”

Spatulate and spirochete.
Fox and horsetail.
Regular or decaf.

You may discriminate the seven types
of snowflakes: plates, stars,
columns, needles, spatial dendrites, capped
columns, irregular crystals.
Or perhaps you look at the larger picture
and see snow in dunes or sastrugi.

Palmate and plunge
Spirochete and dendrite.
Plain or peanut.

A favorite poem discusses diamond
cuts: pear, heart, oval, emerald,
radiant, baguette, trillion, quadrillion
marquise, Old European,
and American Standard Brilliant.

How to know. What
kind, sort, type, class, division?
So many different,
so much the same.
Maybe it comes to this:
Two kinds of people,
those who divide the world
and those who don’t.

Forest or trees.
Spatulate or spirochete. Living or dead.


© Ellen Wade Beals, 2003


Bare branches © Ellen Wade Beals, 2013

Bare branches © Ellen Wade Beals, 2013

In the trees © Ellen Wade Beals, 2013

In the trees © Ellen Wade Beals, 2013


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  1. Ellen T. McKnight says:

    Another one of those wonderful poems by Ellen Wade Beals that has a way of sneaking up on you. This seems especially potent in the world we face today.

  2. Ellen Beals says:

    Thanks E!

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