Dialogue: Mammalia


by Dawn Promislow

[At the greeny-leafed start
of the path that wends ahead
the sign says:]

Cattaraugus Local Escarpment Corporation
“Preservation is our future”
Mammal checklist:

Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)

Northern Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda)
Long-tailed Shrew or Rock Shrew (Sorex dispar)
Smoky Shrew (Sorex fumeus)

[and other shrews]

Star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata)
Hairy-tailed mole (Parascalops breweri)

Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
Eastern Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus)

[and other bats]

Coyote (Canis latrans)
Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteurs)
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)
Ermine (Mustela erminea)
Long-tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata)
Mink (Mustela vison)

American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

Woodchuck (Marmota monax)
Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)

[and other squirrels]

Beaver (Castor canadensis)

Woodland Jumping Mouse (Napaeozapus insignis)
Meadow Jumping Mouse (Zapus hudsonius)

Southern Red-backed Vole (Clethrionomys gapperi)
Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus)

[and other voles, et cetera]

White-footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)
Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus)

Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)

[On the long, green-leafed path,
boughs bowing, cicadas and birds

—it was spring:

we breathed cicada’ed air,
a din,

and walked a-sweat, deep in.

I wished

to see


a woodland jumping mouse; a spangled star-nosed
mole, a-scuttle; a red-backed mole, a bare and a
bare-back one; a northern pelted short-nosed shrew;
a woodchuck in shavings; a keen bat, tho’ blind, and
a hoary one; a Ginny, a possum; and an Isabel-ermine, besleeked;
an eastern pipistrelle, bestockinged; and that meadow vole that is now farly
greened; and an eastern cottontail, like Peter, or a high-tailed deer


a warm-blooded thing, mammalian, familial,

warmwild of mine—

but none, not one
saw I
along that greeny-leafed escarpment path.]

That’s not a poem, he said.
And she said: It is.

About the Author:

Dawn Promislow is the author of the short story collection Jewels and Other Stories (TSAR Publications, 2010), which was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2011, and named one of the 8 best fiction debuts of 2011 by The Globe and Mail (Canada). Her poem “lemon” was short-listed for the 2015 Berfrois Poetry Prize. She lives in Toronto.