HOWARD McCORD: POETRY & PROSE
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POETRY | POEM 02 |
Listening To Maps
 

The sound of old maps
is like dolls’ laughter,
brittle as china twigs
or a bird’s thinking.

At Dodona, old men
still listen to the oak,
and yellow-eyed boys
have begun to dream at the signal
                        of things shuffled in the night
since the stars were first seen,
and their names began to be understood.

The page is a mind’s track.
Everything reveals. It is not necessary to read.
Wittgenstein is folded in the limestone.
The whole of the mysteries
is held like music in the white bark pine.

Every ridge is sacred to a bird
who watches the river below
twist like a juniper with secrets.

What the maps don’t tell me
I discover from my wife.
Love knows things denied all else.

Some maps can be rolled like waves,
while others have to be folded at the joints,
bent like canal locks or opened up
like shy girls’ thighs.

Old maps demand the least,
like old men: they’ve learned
the fallacy of presumption,
and everything goes easier
with the eyes closed.

There is no way to satirize a map.
It keeps telling you where you are.
And if you're not there,
you're lost. Everything is reduced
to meaning.

A map may lie, but it never jokes.

We are sitting here, you and I,
in a place on a map.
We know this. Yet we are not on the map.

We are looking for ourselves.
This is the rustle of leaves
that you hear,
the crackle of folding paper,
the sound of old maps.