My Mother Knows Names

My mother knows the names of things;

The trees and their birds

The snakes that eat their eggs.

She knows the common names

The white pine, the goldfinch,

The black rat snake.

She knows the latin

The Pinus strobus, the Corduelis corduelis

Pantherophis obsoletus.

Words that sound slanted

Come out italicized

Into the open air.

I can see them leaning

On her breath on cold nights

When she identifies strigaformes

Who call their names to her

Across silent valleys.

Strix Varia

She says and replies

With a call of her own

A wild guttural sound, deep in her throat

Not the name we gave the owl

But the name the owl gave himself.

And lo, The Owl replies.

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