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The cartographer’s dilemma

Tony Mancus

I’m going to sleep with the wheel I keep
as a guide for my directness. It’s shaped
so right and I’m supposed to be drawing
a map of this place, but my hands remain

         A portrait of a long necked goose
         that feels so real.

And the brochure for cartography school
was more appealing than the place where
I got sent to draw—what a love of earth
tones and pastels, a love of scriptlike fonts
can do to a man who wants a sure-fire career.

         Tonight even you cannot take the place
         of you or taking you to the place where
         there’s no you to take to, only cannons.

So I’m stuck looking out of portholes and
my face is just another circle dotted with eyes
from far away—the kind an artless child
would draw.

         The land rises a number of feet and
         the miles, according to a sign we passed
         a while back, no longer count.

I can draw the coastline like a portrait (sea above)
and I could invite another party of searchlights
to locate that damnable tree with golden leaves all
the royals are so fond of. I’ll wear my fountain
pen as a mask. I’ll pour the ink in splotches to
mark time’s disinterest, or the waves won’t quit.

         If someone can make sense of this when
         we get back, I vow to set my hands away
         from my self so long they won’t know
         which way to turn to make their way back.

Tony Mancus

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