finding your pupils
dilating in the moonlight
my hands leave your
hair and rest on your cheeks;
a few fingertips south
your tongue meets my teeth
cross cardinal directions,
commit cardinal sins,
put my palms
on your chest
unbutton your shirt to
cradle your heart ,
find it tearing across
you, carve a latitude
down my back and
move me closer
to your guts ,
graze your fingertips
against my thigh and
ink your name on my
we, devour each other's
topography and imprint
coordinates on our skin,
no cartographer can
map because we
created the legend in disarray,
the compass breaks
with magnetic force,
and we fall asleep
When I was young,
The atlas was a book of mystery.
My little brain could never fathom
How cartographers fit the world
Into a neat two-page spread.
Instead, I tore the pages gleefully,
Turning the blues and greens
Into delicate paper boats,
Waiting for a rainy day,
To make its voyage.
Maps make me anxious these days,
A reminder of loss, measured to scale,
Of disappearing mangroves and broken bridges,
Of imaginary borders that split the world
Into too many shattered pieces.
splits open the giant
sphere of our planet,
and spreads it down
flat, tracing out the
horizon and naming
the oceans, and yet
every map is distorted.
In my poems I try to
to map my memories;
tracing out the horizon
and naming the oceans.
I know that there are
distortions, but all the
maps are true.
When a middle aged uncle I shared the elevator with, stares at me for the entire ride, a map retraces through my mind to look for reasons– a woman, my hijab, the misogynist’s entitlement to sadistic pleasures– before I allow myself to feel anything.
When a friend tells me about this new thing in their life, I instantly extend their map to include this exciting new skill they’ve developed or to their dreamy love interest from the past or to what triggers their anxiety.
It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 am or pm, every detail, new and old keeps revisiting the maps inside my head, until I’m asleep, and then a little more. That is how it works, like a cartographer, marking people and places and instances as they’re discovered, loved, left in a chronological order with a recall priority to the one that hurt the most; it’s a masochist, my brain.
And an obsessive. You could be just the person I waited behind in the 5 feet apart grocery store line, and you’d still have a map of your own in my mind because all that while, when you’d think my brain would stay still, it was wondering whether the smell of the coconut oil coming from you meant a dedicated old mother or a tiring child in their teens. My brain, it has slippery boundaries when it comes to letting strangers in.
Except today. Today it went numb for it didn’t know where to map the loss of someone I have never even met. So, my heart, pretending that it knew him too well, took over instead, and wrapped all its unfathomable feelings in a prayer for Maqbool. Just in time, because
“Sometimes we forget things if we have nobody to tell them to.”
As I sit with the with word of the day
Turning it over in my hands – map
All I remember are the large sheets of paper that
we had to colour in school with the countries in the world
knowing about the topography of lands unknown
longitude and latitude
all resulted in marks
I wasn’t bitten by wanderlust
so the places on the map
were just words to me
Romania, Poland, Italy, Spain, England
I did always wonder about the people who stayed on
these coloured blots on my examination sheet
I wondered what the people would be like
what would their lives look like
did they have parks or perhaps fountains
mountains, rivers, lakes or streams
which trees lined their streets, which animals
were called that land home
what kind of food did they eat?
there isn’t much need to wonder now
our landscape and topography is the same
there are no mighty mountains and deep rivers
our maps feature rooms, bathrooms, studys, kitchens,
beds, sofas, desks, balconies, windows
and closed doors.