Field Survey

               The three species of quiver tree have been given ratings ranging
               from vulnerable to critically endangered. Modeled range declines
               in this species due to climate change have recently been confirmed
               by field surveys.

I will go and count the quiver trees.
There is need of someone to do this—in this way
I can make myself something useful:
a compass or a pencil. I will walk
the Namib alone, hearing only the monotones
of numbers, which are whole and unequivocal,
and look for the quiver trees raising their fingered arcs
against the empty sky, at their feet strewn rocks
like bricks of collapsed cities, making tick marks
in my notebook, and even though
it will be my job to say—
the quiver trees are leaving us,
the winds have shifted and carried them away, this one is gone
and there is not even a stump, a withered root to mark it

at night in my tent, my boots dangling above for fear
of snakes, I will see in the dark one quiver tree
amid the ruins, its latitude, its longitude.
Katherine Maurer’s poetry has been published in journals including Alaska
Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poetry Northwest
, and
Sycamore Review, and her manuscript was a finalist in the 2012 Yale Younger Poets
prize competition. She received her MFA from the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign. She lives in Champaign, Illinois, and works as an editor.