In my maps of the market garden
I always forgot to include your journeys.
Or just your memory, your footprints
in the soft mud, your back as you walked away.
I think I might have marked your passage
in dotted lines, through craters
of bougainvillea, across the runes of hedges,
through strange roads that are often dark,
where adventure lies, the tale unwrit.
A colic farmer, leaning against a rotting fence,
said you had dove beneath the trees,
across from his field, and indeed
there was a rusting bicycle. He said
he had only rustled at the edge of the green,
had grown excited at some fine point, and
had run from the woods. There was something
that he still would refuse to place.
As I entered on your path of busted twigs,
the run of a deer, long gone, I began
to feel the farmer’s point, an incidental change.
Soon your journey opened to a path of pale stones,
and I walked for the afternoon, of a mind that I
would come across your camp, or find
another road, or a town, or yourself.
The point was blurring at the edge of my mind,
for I knew I should have come to familiar climes.
There was a stately oak, with gnarled, windowed knots
and an elm with a trunk that stood too straight.
I glimpsed a grove of aspen, growing bowerlike
over moss-made beds and a creek fed bath,
where I thought I saw your form reposed
in a shadowy pool. I left the path of pale stones.
To follow your unmapped trail.
I followed your image, under the dappling light,
down an alleyway of river stones, where
vines rose from the forest floor, like fire escapes,
to stop at windows, shuttered in bark.
Muffled laughter drifted past my ears
and when I looked again, the ephemeral
marks of your passing had faded from sight.
You left me searching through the strangest streets,
where spires of odd design and apartments
of fir and beech embossed themselves
from the walls of the forest—
a city emerging from the bark, and the wind
pretending an Autumn bite, to lose me
in a rush of falling leaves.
I wandered, your path abandoned,
through sylvan corridors and up a flight of granite steps.
I emerged in a plaza of ancient stones,
surrounded by what seemed a market grove.
Wooden signs hung on trailing vines
with images printed in brilliant petals.
A cauldron that must have spoke of hippo’s beak
or tail of frog, a flowering tree for saplings and seeds,
and a compass, I assumed, meant maps of this place.
I pressed between a curtain of oak leaves,
and the forest unfolded a cartographer’s shop.
Intricate tables and racks of maps surrounded
thin paths, cluttered with work, with inks, with
topographical forms, and parchment scrolls.
Forgetting whom I had been following, I
began to search for your path of pale stones,
or some maps to follow the farmer and his fears,
for a path to follow home.
Stacks of maps were neatly arranged and rolled.
I began to peruse and unfurl the spaces contained,
whatever came to hand—bleeding in subtle inks and zones.
Nothing was clear in these maps and I packed
vast lands back into tight curls.
Each new map presented stranger vistas, of lands
unvisited, bordered, each, by a similar scape,
but each map spiraled to different worlds,
as though their maker was trying to catch
some element of vague portent, like the point
that the farmer had sensed at the edge of the green.
There was a secret grown in that city and land
that could not be mapped or scaled, for all the ink
and paper spent, though the mapmaker made their attempts.
Stretching the roll of one vast map, I found the outlying
zones sketched in broad relief, but the lines shrunk
down, as the circle closed, to a microscopic central sphere—
some form of telescoping geography.
Another map, a cone in three dimensions,
had a point that disappeared in brilliant country blues
and pinks, a series of lenses hung around its peak.
I glanced within and saw the cartographer’s lines
still recording paths and plains, and a dotted journey in red,
that cut across the runes of hedges and homes.
I found six tapered scrolls and laid them on a table,
arranged with their larger ends within, and there I saw the truth
that that land expanded as it journeyed in.
The final map I opened from a sealed trunk,
a waxy square of paper that opened to another map contained,
and this was opened again, on thinning creases, and
again recursively maps descended to worlds untold, to
lands unguessed, with wine-stained smudges at its core.
Still, I could not find the path of pale stones, and I stood
back, every last thin package opened, every map arrayed
in various colours, scattered tools, the curve of a desk,
and the ruse of a compass, seemingly misplaced.
No one map could reveal this place,
but the cartographer’s job had been completed, for
the room itself was a kind of topography, a map
was laid in three dimensions, between shelves and
stools, and all the brilliant rolls and leftover twine,
and roads that pressed between broad oak leaves,
and tenements that rose from a city of trees,
and then I saw, in a shaft of dusty light,
the path of pale stones, advancing from this place.
I collected my breath and ran from the market grove,
down sylvan corridors and the tenements where moss collects,
through oaken hollows to the place the shop had shown.
There was the path, and I knew that I could follow it home,
but your journey had taken you deeper, and I knew
that someone must mark your tale, that
someone must map your steps, through strange roads
that are often dark, must pen the tale that lies unwrit.