She learned the names of rivers
and of mountain ranges.
For rooms full of visitors. So willing was she —
it was a way to impress the new men in her family,
who were on leave from the Pacific
or Pearl Harbor, facing a long, silent war.
Always maps, and the nervous
mapmakers, changing their minds.
She learned to follow
the slow curves of a river
to a source in the high wall
of the Andes. To follow
the Orinoco, the Amazon, the Nile.
Sometimes the rivers went underground.
You could hear them murmur the names
through canyons and grottoes,
emerging up ahead.
Always the maps, big glistening maps
with worn-out folds,
which Time was always changing.
The blue and brown and green fields
asked to borrow a new history —
changing names, or having their names erased.
Her own name had been changed —
the forever name buried,
left at the border.
She could unfold the maps completely
and follow the drift, as if allowed to swim away
from the family boat,
where they were sitting out on deck,
heads down over nautical charts —
at some distance.
Slow curves in a northerly direction,
to the high points, where the mountains become one.
Does this ever happen?
S A B R A L O O M I S
House Held Together By Winds