I was reminded recently of paper maps.
The first time I drove across the country by myself — well, in my own car with no other passengers, even though I was caravanning with a friend from college, but that’s a crazy story for another day — I was driving from Houston to Austin to Schulenberg (where I would meet up with that friend) to Los Angeles. Even though the directions were simple (get on I-10 West and go until you reach the ocean), I still made excellent use of a AAA map that I marked up with a ball-point pen and a hi-liter when dust storms forced us off the interstate in New Mexico and we had to wend our way through back roads, mountain passes, and reservation lands until we could find our way back to the 10 in Phoenix.
I love maps, a little. They give me a sense of agency that using a nav system in my car or on my phone will never offer, but can only take away.
Please enjoy this poem by Mutabilis Press poet Anne McCrady.
mashed in bottom drawers
crammed into shelves,
stashed in the back
of glove compartments,
they waited patient as saints
for our supplications.
in answer to our confusion,
they offered gentle guidance,
when foolish misdirection
sent us searching the horizon
for wisdom, for the way.
Folded and refolded,
highlighted and penciled
with X’s of we are here
amid red-lettered scripture
and black-gridded gospel,
they plotted our progress, A2 to J7.
Like stained glass images,
some were water-colored topos
to illuminate our path forward.
Others, shiny park folders
of forest greens and rocky browns,
noted scenic visions not to be missed.
A few—coastal nautical guides—
flagged routes right through blue oceans.
The most beautiful maps curved
in lines of latitude and longitude,
spinning as a spherical model
of planet Earth—globes of painted paper
wrapped around a hollow ball set on an axle
so that, when spun, continents flew past
and seas swirled, blurring the boundaries
between friends and enemies…like the one
I have kept from my father’s study,
along with a note scribbled on a napkin
in his script, directions to a daughter
for how to always find the way home.
Go to this month’s first Poem-A-Day to learn how to participate in a game as part of this year’s series. You can have just a little involvement or go all the way and write a cento. I hope you’ll join in!
Anne McCrady is a poet, speaker, and peace advocate whose award-winning writing appears in her poetry collections and in dozens of literary journals, newspapers, arts magazines, and American and international anthologies. Her work has been included in civic and religious programs and performed at universities as art song and libretto. She has editorial, review, and critique publication credits and is a frequent contest judge, workshop presenter, and conference guest. McCrady is a Poetry Society of Texas councilor and the 2018 Austin Poets International Poet Laureate. She lives in Tyler, Texas.