by Alan Marshfield 


The beach-scrub and the past contain two boys
making a map and writing up a log.
It does not matter that you can’t return,
for no one can. Under the lamp at night
I study a large-scale offprint of the time.

The little roads and lanes now that fly over—
great trefoil roundabout and underpass
have made those desolate marshes and our fields
even more lonely than they ever were—
are heritage to no one’s children now.

I know that all maps lie. Not marked, the raft
we hid beneath the alders by the dump
where we stole secret bibles and pram springs. . . .
They got the pillbox in. . . . Today the war
is against silence and cheap, private things.

Still more inaccurate would be the map
that I might try to draw to show the path
back to the bird-watch places which you found
and could not rediscover even then
although we were so proud at navigating.

What chain, theodolite, have you to hand,
what trig points to triangulate the darkness,
to mark, between infinity and nothing,
between the Word and cruel promises
the way to peacetime in your sunken den?

I travel back in memory and forward
to when we’ll be together. We’ll devise
all sorts of routes across the marsh and mudflats,
we will make valleys where no valleys were—
and we’ll have such adventures, won’t we, kid?

Copyright © 1999 by Alan Marshfield. 
This poem is the title poem of Maps by Alan Marshfield, Abraxas Press, 1999, London.


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