A New Cartography

by Mandy Pannett
The Write Idea
Second Place, December 2010
Judged by Paul Lisicky


It is dark by the river, by this bridge’s
underbelly: struts intertwine, cross-hatch.
He feels insignificant; small: an ant
within a clod of grass.

The bridge is singing a cappella –
voices of women shift in its iron:
a Celtic lament of the lowlands,
drowning, an elegy, death.

He wears a bracelet-like device, for this
is a sentient city. A new cartography
measures his skin, the contours and spikes
of his nerves.

He wonders why the chart of him
should always be so flat: no troughs, no peaks, no
lines of joy – once he stopped to hear a song:
a blackbird in a tree. The graph recorded
gentle frills at this.

Let them keep it all, he thinks, their precious
watchtowers on a wrist. Let them analyse
the heart of man.

The bridge still croons its ballads out, its chords
of broken love. He thinks about the note
he’s left and hopes it hurts her, hopes
she drowns in guilt.

‘Now it’s bound to peak,’ he says.
A pigeon watches at the water’s edge.


I love this poem's sense of swing, its richness of language. And the delicate force of its central metaphor. ---Paul Lisicky

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