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The Map

December 22, 2005

Inside the obdurate
bones of my skull, a map
to the city where I was
born, and each night I walk

its spidery lines.
I stop at each corner
to read the street names,
to gather the wanderers

who lived there once. I walk
outward from my house
on the dead end road, toward
the center of the city

and greet every half-forgotten
neighbor along the way.
I pass the house where half
a century ago, a young

girl heaved her newborn
into the well. I peer
into the scrappy yard
where she’d brought

her child; I feel them both
trembling in the dark.
The bones are there, too–
smaller and whiter than

anything on this earth.
I stop at a dirty
stream near a house where
an outcast family had

lived. I call them out
to play but hear only
the defiant murmur
of wind and water.

I’m tired then but there are
a few more miles to walk
before I sleep — past church
and school, past factories

where nothing has been made
for decades. I walk faster
under the bridge where men
with deadened eyes cling to

the bottles they thought would
save them. When I was young,
I feared that looking into
those eyes would curse me.

Now, caretaker of this lost
city, I know the reverse
is true: It’s in the turning
away that we perish.

by Patry Francis of Simply Wait

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  1. December 22, 2005 at 8:51 am

    Patry, thank you for this beautiful poem, full of truth.

  2. December 22, 2005 at 10:46 am

    I love this poem for its darkness, its razor’s edge of truth, its compassion.

  3. December 22, 2005 at 10:53 am

    Oh my, this is the first blog that I opened up to read this morning, as I have my first cup, and immediately I felt drawn into the words, the images and my skin crawled! Like moose said it! Thanks Patry!

  4. December 22, 2005 at 11:00 am

    Patry: Thank you for these sumptuous lines, full of echoes. I think we all have such maps but each is different, echoing the multiplicity of ways forward, but the conclusion is the same, your last stanza. Oh, the responsibility of being a caretaker for this place….

  5. December 22, 2005 at 1:10 pm

    Yes, that last stanza is a knock-out.

  6. December 23, 2005 at 2:01 am

    Such beautiful, even tone. Quiet and dreamlike. I can’t figure out if your walk is your idea or if you’re pulled like Scrooge, and I like that ambiguity.

    My favorite lines (I don’t know why, but they make something well up inside me):

    The bones are there, too–
    smaller and whiter than

    anything on this earth.

  7. December 23, 2005 at 6:25 pm

    (0) (0) (0)

  8. December 23, 2005 at 7:51 pm

    The first time I read this, my throat caught on the last stanza and my eyes grew moist. Powerful stuff, Patry.

  9. rdl
    December 23, 2005 at 8:10 pm

    Really, really a great poem!

  10. December 24, 2005 at 11:12 am

    Thank you all for taking this walk with me through the old mill city where I grew up. It’s not the prettiest of landscapes, I suppose. Every comment is stored up and appreciated.

    Peter: your Scrooge analogy was a revelation to me. I frequently undertake this imaginary trek just before sleep; (don’t ask me why) and if at some point, I become dislocated, and can’t remember a street name or a house, I get up and pace the house till I retrieve it. It’s as if everything I needed to learn about life was there on my first road; and if I lose even the tiniest detail, I will never figure it all out.

  11. December 25, 2005 at 1:31 pm

    I keep coming back to read this, but not being able to find words for a comment.

    Great poem, Patry.

  12. December 27, 2005 at 8:22 am

    Nice, Patry. :) It intrigues me how many towns this town could be, north and south.

  13. December 27, 2005 at 7:13 pm

    Wonderful. So this must be where your eye for the details of everyday life were born and where you keep that marvelous garden watered and fed.

  14. January 2, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    I know that bridge and have walked under it. You speak the truth about their eyes.

  15. January 9, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    patry,

    i love the compassion in this poem and also your awareness of the similarity of ‘structure’dness in the bones/skull of the human being and the buildings, roads, etc of the outer world.

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