Field Guide by Tony Hoagland

Once, in the cool blue middle of a lake,
up to my neck in that most precious element of all,

I found a pale-gray, curled-upwards pigeon feather
floating on the tension of the water

at the very instant when a dragonfly,
like a blue-green iridescent bobby pin,

hovered over it, then lit, and rested.
That’s all.

I mention this in the same way
that I fold the corner of a page

in certain library books,
so that the next reader will know

where to look for the good parts.

Field Guide

Any field guide I’ve seen has been filled with various and multiple birds or plants or insects or whatever, so I wasn’t sure what I would find in this poem by that name. What I found and hope you may also, is a delight, a moment in time that the poet wants to share with us.

It’s still too chilly to go swimming this May, though I so love to put myself into the cool blue middle of any body of water, that most precious element of all, my favourite summer treat. Here, he notices a common pigeon feather, pale-gray, curled-upwards, floating on the surface which could be engaging enough. But then, in the next moment, a dragonfly appears, like a blue-green iridescent bobby pin, to rest on the feather awhile. That’s all, Hoagland says, that’s enough, just wanted to point this out to you, this small miracle of ordinariness.

I think the most intriguing part though, comes in the last lines where he explains that he is mentioning this event in the same way that I fold the corner of a page / in certain library books, his way of alerting the next reader where to look for the good parts. The good parts, the simple, solitary dragonfly’s iridescent beauty held on a weightless, floating feather – is that not worth noting?

Perhaps this may inspire you to consider what the good parts are in your days that you want to mark for the next person. In this way we can share the beauty around us.

8 thoughts on “Field Guide by Tony Hoagland

  1. What a perfectly beautiful poem. I can close my eyes and feel the magic of that beautiful big Quebec lake all around me – as a loon’s call fills me with wonder. There are so many good parts…
    Thank you Jan. Love, Lisa

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  2. Dear Jan: another brand-new poem for me! My favourite line, “That’s all.” As you point out, “this small miracle of ordinariness.” Thank you for introducing me to this delight of words. Love – Mary Lou

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  3. Jan, I love this, especially your ending:

    “ Perhaps this may inspire you to consider what the good parts are in your days that you want to mark for the next person. In this way we can share the beauty around us.”

    Very inspiring.

    Thank you! Margaret 613-725-6941 h 613-795-9879 c

    Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

    – Oscar Wilde.

    >

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