These Days I Go by the Name Compass


poem by Lisa Cihlar


Magnetic north is now moving from Canada to Siberia at 40 miles per year. Some things are true because they are true and measurable and some things are only my truth. Pins and Styrofoam and dead bodies in the freezer. Beetles are easy. So are moths and butterflies. Ants are hard due to their size. Silverfish impossible. Anything that begins as a wet body, that smears easily under a hand or shoe doesn’t pin well, or hold up well if you manage to pin it down, even with an acupuncture needle. Wet bodies dry up, shrivel, and become brittle dust. I make labels. Scientific name, common name, where collected. I have a shelf full of guide books to insect identification. Bird books, too. Birds have magnetite in their skulls. They can find their way home from anywhere—a place I have not been in a hundred years. Now that north is moving so fast the birds may be just as lost. They call me with their birdsong that my vocal cords are not prepared or evolved to repeat. I will leave them bright yarn in the pine boughs for building nests and teaching nestlings what to sing for.