MAP AND TERRITORY
Draw the lines firm: give no doubt
where the boundaries between us
and them. Your choice of alphabet
will locate you on one side
or the other. Think of the man
walking for seven years from where
the human story began. "I forget
the names of towns without rivers."
He wakes in the morning
to the footprints of desert beetles.
As we told the story of the Exodus
he took ship across the Red Sea
on a Syrian vessel full of mourners.
Hardboiled eggs rolled on their plates.
Will he climb the Harei Yehuda
or the Jibal al-Khalil?
Overhead, cranes following his route
chivvy him with rattling calls.
From their vantage his footsteps blur
into the sinuous tracks of a snake.
His path, the great rift
no negotiations can heal.
Luisa A. Igloria offered this prompt today:
Using couplets, write a poem of literal and metaphorical transplanting in the form of instructions for drawing a map.
In the poem, make reference to a specific mode of travel, a body of water, and a mountain range. Also include only the tracks or sound made by two types of animals that creep along the ground, and one that flies.
As I began the poem I had in mind my recent travels. Was I in Jerusalem or al-Quds? Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank, or Palestine?
That, in turn, reminded me of tweets I've seen recently about Silwan / the City of David from the team chronicling Paul Salopek's Out of Eden walk from Ethiopia to Tierra del Fuego. (If this is new to you, read about it -- it's extraordinary.)
The quote comes from one of Paul's recent dispatches, as does the image of the eggs rolling on the plates of Syrians aboard ship. That image particularly resonated with me because in Jewish tradition we eat hardboiled eggs (and also lentils) at the meal of consolation after a funeral. A reminder of life even in the face of death.
Edited to add: thanks to the team at Out of Eden for featuring this poem alongside a beautiful photograph from the crossing of the Red Sea on their blog: Couplets and Kilometers.