Saturday, May 22, 2010

May Challenge Winners

There are two winners of the May Poetry Challenge. In both, the concept of the map is used both literally and metaphorically.

The Map Home

Around the globe, you search
for two dots, connected
by a flight line. Distance
becomes a long string
to knot nostalgia;
fingers nudge a blue
sphere – home beckons
like an aching moon.

Your son asks
to map the family tree.
You surprise him, draw
concentric circles. Your pen drifts,
traces solar systems,
that revolve around the same point –
That’s our home!

Laughing at your crazy map,
your son prunes the growing tree.
He does not see
rings rippling across
your night river,
and leaves fall to roots.

Anna Yin

Anna Yin blogs at

Yin’s blog says she was born in China and immigrated to Canada. This might help explain the poignant declaration in her poem that “Distance / becomes a long string /to knot nostalgia.” The mapping of the family tree by use of concentric circles with home in the middle mirrors the mapping of growth from infancy through adulthood. First the infant relates only to parents and others in the home; then the sphere of the child widens to include teachers and schoolmates. As the individual grows, the spheres in which he or she lives widen further. Yet, for most people, home remains central. The last stanza of the poem has several possible interpretations. It could represent the way the world ultimately narrows for one who has aged.

A dory trip down the San Juan River from New Mexico into Utah, where she hiked to the top of Comb Ridge, inspired Karla Linn Merrifield to write her map poem, “Anticline Tao: One Night at Comb Ridge.” The climb was “about 400 feet, almost straight up, and then we were on top of the world overlooking the southern Utah redrock landscape and the green snaking river," Merrifield told me when I e-mailed to ask if she had actually climbed Comb Ridge. “The geology of the place moved me as did the spectacular view,” she added.

The poem is dedicated to R. J. Johnson, one of the dory boatmen, who is also a geologist. Johnson educated the poet concerning the origin and development of the ridge. The poem's use of geological vocabulary and detail reflect Johnson's influence. Merrifield also provides information regarding invasive species of plants which need to be pulled or dug out if the landscape is to maintain its natural character.

Anticline Tao: One Night at Comb Ridge

Once over the top,
off the flat map,
down the collapsed jumble
of rocks of varied ages and depths,
I go the deeper 3-D way.
Like a grain of quartz sand,
a dustling of garnet,
a fleck of schist,
I tumble backwards
into the diatreme venting tube.
I spiral along that ancient pipe,
ignoring my rumpled Utah topo-atlas,
my damp San Juan River chart,
because it is possible to journey
freely to the center of the Earth.

Transporting myself I in turn
transport what evil I am able.
This time I take with me only aliens:
tamarisk, Russian olive, camelbush.
It’s hard work, hard work,
for one flecked particle
of polished hope to do.
But over and over I remind
my fearful phenomenal self
I do this in…this is…
the compassless geography of hope.
I travel deeper into the molten core.

for R.J. Johnson
with a line from Wallace Stegner

Karla Linn Merrifield

Merrifield begins the poem with the narrator “off the flat map.” Although her poem includes literal maps (the topographical map of Utah and the “chart” of the river, there is no map to direct the metaphoric tumble into the volcanic core.

The rich phrase "geography of hope" is from Wallace Stegner's The Sound of Mountain Water.

Merrifield is co-editor (with Roger M. Weir) of The Dire Elegies: 59 Poets on Endangered Species of North America (available at

She blogs as “The Vagabond Poet,” at

Poets retain copyright on their own poets.

© 2010 Wilda Morris