if this were a map

collage illustration

In the old, scratched, cheap wood of the typing stand

there is a landscape, veined, which only a child can see

or the child’s older self, a poet,

a woman dreaming when she should be typing

the last report of the day. If this were a map,

she thinks, a map laid down to memorize

because she might be walking it, it shows

ridge upon ridge fading into hazed desert

here and there a sign of aquifers

and one possible watering‐hole. If this were a map

it would be the map of the last age of her life,

not a map of choices but a map of variations

on the one great choice. It would be the map by which

she could see the end of touristic choices,

of distances blued and purpled by romance,

by which she would recognize that poetry

isn’t revolution but a way of knowing

why it must come. If this cheap,

mass‐produced wooden stand from the Brooklyn Union Gas Co.,

mass‐produced yet durable, being here now,

is what it is yet a dream‐map

so obdurate, so plain,

she thinks, the material and the dream can join

and that is the poem and that is the late report.

Dreamwood

a poem by Adrienne Rich

October/November 1987

“nothing can surpass the mystery of stillness” e e cummings

Standing Still

n

OthI

n

g can

s

urPas

s

the m

y

SteR

y

of

s

tilLnes

s

— e e cummings
poem 42

from ’73 poems’, published posthumously in 1963.

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