The Mapmaker

a woman in the business

of mapmaking

hopes to outlive the world

she creates,

a world that gives her

these fleeting moments

of light to take notes

before it changes:

another island

formed, a city


a whole region

lost to war.


on this paper,

a nation rises.)

a woman in the business

of mapmaking

uses pencil and fears

cross-outs and do-overs,

the botched proportions

on the borders of islands,

smears and smudges that find

their way into the ocean,

pollutants, mistakes

the cartographer can never pull up

with eraser.

a woman in the businesses

of mapmaking

can do as she pleases

in a small room with no windows.

if she fails to draw france, no one

will notice. if she draws a new river

and gives it her dead lover’s name,

no one will see.

(so many dead places

are named for dead men.)

a woman in the businesses

of mapmaking

writes the world

a much-needed

table of contents,

has the power

to lay the world flat

and forgive it

for all these crooked

countries, all these bodies

of water without names.

(she holds the world heavy

in her aging hands

and decides she will

keep working on it.)

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