A Cartography of Home by Hayden Saunier

A Cartography of Home

My mother was a place. She was the where
from which I rose. Once on my feet, I touched

my forehead to her knee, then thigh, then hip,
waist, shoulder as I grew into my own wild country,

borderless, then bordered, bound
by terrors, terra incognita and salt seas.

I took my compass rose from her, my cardinal points,
embodiments of wind and names of cloud,

but every symbol in the legend now
belongs to me—rivers, topographic lines and shading,

back roads, city streets, highway lanes that end
abruptly at the broken edge of cliffs

where dragons snorting fire
ride curls of figured waves in unknown seas.

Monsters mark the desert blanks on her charts too.
Before she died, I folded myself back

to pocket-size, my children tucked inside
like inset maps and I lay my head down on her lap.

My mother stroked my hair
the way her mother had stroked hers,

and hers before hers, on and on, and we
remained like that—not long—but long enough

to make an atlas of us, perfect bound,
while she was still a place and so was I.

by Hayden Saunier

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Editor’s Note: The beautiful sonics of this poem (alliteration, assonance, etc.) supports its emotional backbone as the speaker draws a map of love and inheritance from mother to child.


6 responses to “A Cartography of Home by Hayden Saunier”

  1. Sydney Lea Avatar

    Truly lovely! Brava! (One nitpick: the word “lay” should be “laid” here.)

  2. mowensrvapoetry Avatar

    Such beauty and emotion in this poem. Thank you. Marsha

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  4. David W. Parsley Avatar

    This piece moves so nicely, unafraid of letting the emotion through sincerely but with unusual imagery and sense of place, its own way of charting. The tableau-like impression lingers after the poem is read.

  5. Lucie Winborne Avatar
    Lucie Winborne

    Simply beautiful.

  6. seeker2022 Avatar

    The image of the head on her lap really got me. Wonderful.

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