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First Prize, Kick Start Poets' competition
published in
Quattrocento, Issue 2, 2005
in collection
The Cartographer Sleeps,
Shoestring Press, 2005, ISBN No: 1 904886 14 0

The Cartographer Sleeps


He dreams:


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 Earths already finished but below

are strata: sandstone, undivided shale,

all in their coloured shapes. Now he can go


under deep sea roads - hes a diving whale,

measures his length along the ocean floors,

up mountains, down crevasses. Next hell 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,

hes hypnotised these huge    tectonic      plates

but they are only slumbering.

              They will


wake up              push off     and carelessly create

new structures, unknown continents.          Theyll drift

together, mocking as they tessellate.


Or, jokers in his pack of maps,

                       theyll shift

apart         and take with them the bits of names

hes 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 cant 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.


Barbara Daniels


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 Barbara Daniels photo

e-mail Barbara

Barbara Daniels website: Formal Poetry and other idiosyncrasies

and in the shop ...
"The Cartographer Sleeps"
Shoestring Press

"Mean Time",
"Spin Again"
"Dance with Me"
National Poetry Foundation;

"Take Off",
"Camera Obscura"
"Usk: The Origin of a Thinker"
Poetry Monthly Press


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