Glosa: Maps impossible to refold

by Esther Murer
The Waters
Second Place, October 2015
Judged by Barbara Siegel Carlson

Maps impossible to refold
are replaced by robot voices
that send us
where we think we want to go.
But we end up somewhere else.

          – Mary Cresswell, “Magnetic North”

Benton Harbor is the hair of the little girl
I drew on the beach with my toy rake.
Kalamazoo is the smell of celery fields
and the blue gingerbread house
where we turned north. Battle Creek
is wondrous globes of viscous gold
soap in a ladies restroom.
Cedar Springs will forever remain
“The red flannel town” for the cold.
Maps impossible to refold

into memory. The operator
to whom my sister kept saying
“Hewwo” when asked for a number
please — and the one
in Mineral Point who deduced
that out of the possible choices
the Clare I was trying to reach
must be Steve Harwood’s daughter
and connected me in a trice —
are replaced by robot voices

who announce calls from
all manner of persons not on
our “received” list: “Anna
Neemus,” “Nottavaila Bill,”
“Seetle Wah,” “Wtf” — the nature
of whose sinister agendas
we have no desire to learn; and others whose
operators are assisting other customers,
as they incessantly remind us, or
that send us

down myriad culs-de-sac before
cutting us off. Last I knew, my hometown’s
railroad station had become
a café-cum-artspace. But in my dreams
the Chicago public transit system
connects with that of Oslo.
The stops and landmarks tend to migrate,
so I still spend most of the dream
wondering if we will ever get to
where we think we want to go.

Indeed, where do we want to go?
And why? Toward summer’s end
the woolly bears head south, always south,
in search of winter shelter. Perhaps
it’s some dim hope of one day growing
wings which leads us on, propels
us in search of the purity we’re sure
still lurks in our soul’s home
over the next (or the next) hill?
But we end up somewhere else.

I love how the name of a place evokes such particular images in memory that become a kind of inner road map directing one back to one’s past, only to realize those images cannot ever literally direct one back. Such sharp engaging details lead to revealing to us the true nature of our inner maps, powered by dreams and deeper connections to the natural and spiritual worlds. In this way we find like "Glosa’s" universal language a larger unexpected vision of the mystery. --Barbara Siegel Carlson