The Cartographer Sleeps
This afternoon he steals an hour and naps.
Behind closed lids his eyes scan to and fro,
their rapid movements sketch a world of maps.
The Earth’s already finished but below
are strata: sandstone, undivided shale,
all in their coloured shapes. Now he can go
under deep sea roads - he’s a diving whale,
measures his length along the ocean floors,
up mountains, down crevasses. Next he’ll sail
into the troposphere - he soars and draws
(naming them all) a congeries of clouds:
Bob Cumulus, Jane Cirrus, then explores
even the atoms - christening a crowd
of particles, a gang of isotopes.
He reads his endless register aloud.
All done! A charted universe! His hope?
To sleep again to check for any gaps
caused by God shaking his kaleidoscope.
He has a nightmare:
Cat-napping now, his careful eyeballs trace
firm outlines of once-moving lands, now still
and resting neatly in their proper place.
They have been drawn there by his masterskill,
he’s hypnotised these huge tectonic plates
but they are only slumbering.
wake up push off and carelessly create
new structures, unknown continents. They’ll drift
together, mocking as they tessellate.
Or, jokers in his pack of maps,
apart and take with them the bits of names
he’s given them: Af Ind and every rift
destroys his w o r l d and all his earthy aims.
The little coloured pieces swell and RAISE
such mountains! He can’t measure them or claim
to own those bastard hills as chaos plays
its game of fast and loose. His pillowcase
holds seas of grief and earthquakes of malaise.
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