“The map is not the territory” —Alfred Korzybski
All the old signposts have fallen,
wood cracked and rotted,
atlases crumble, a pile of maps
flutter and dart like hummingbird
wings, the GPS signal is out of range.
Her compass slips from her hand,
the only thing she knows is that
she walks in circles now,
the trees ahead familiar
but really nothing is the same.
She wanders for hours, days,
weeks, loses track of the nights
as one tumbles into another.
Finally, she stops, builds
a bonfire from all the old maps
still in her pack, invites others
who wander by to gather,
each of them savor warmth
from flame and kindness,
laugh while they tell stories
of how they once knew the way.
Her eyes meet another,
hand outstretched, together
their breath rises in white spirals
into cold air and they
stay still long enough
to learn to love the quiet ache,
the old longing to be sure,
to see the country of certainty
as a memory receding
like an evening horizon until
there is only the black bowl of sky.
They begin to hear the whisper
of breezes, the secrets of birds,
follow the underground stream
that runs through each of them,
and they no longer ask
which way to go,
but sit and savor this
together, under night sky
illumined by fire and stars.
Christine Valters Paintner is an American poet living in Galway, Ireland. She is the author of 15 books including two poetry collections – Dreaming of Stones and The Wisdom of Wild Grace. You can read more of her work at AbbeyoftheArts.com