As you lay in sleep
I saw the chart
Of artery and vein
Running from your heart,

Plain as the strength
Marked upon the leaf
Along the length,
Mortal and brief,

Of your gaunt hand.
I saw it clear:
The wiry brand
Of the life we bear

Mapped like the great
Rivers that rise
Beyond our fate
And distant from our eyes.

— Louise Bogan

One Comment on “Cartography”

  1. Stewart Guthrie

    This poem has been in my head since it appeared in a series of overhead public-service poetry posters on the A Train some time in the 90s. From the pathos of a late moment in the “mortal and brief” tragedy of life, it turns to suggest that we have connections with larger forces, e.g., with the “great rivers that rise / beyond our fate”, connections that somehow (by linking us?) mitigate the tragedy. The melancholy is bracing and the notion of distant connections pleasant.


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