Friday, February 11, 2011

The Cartographer, Far From The Truth

Freud put love and work at the top of the list of indicators of mental health. I have overwhelming amounts of both. Truly, I could do without the work, though, or at least do without the kind of work that comes in my door. I neglect my duties. I'll get in trouble.

This is about a copyist in Battista Agnese's shop in Venice while they were working on the map book for Charles V. It's the little things that get you.

Here Be Lions
We don't allude to unknowns at the borders in these days.
We fill that space with cherubim, puffing away
From the twelve directions. These are in my hand,
Not in my name. Nothing of me will live. In the world
We map, that breath fills sails, never sinks a ship.
In the world I walk at night, I never fear
The hot breath of beasts at my back,
But the sweet breath of my angel beneath
The Rialto has the flavor of my death.

Few fear the winds here; as few as fear
The Pope, or the Emperor; a shrug and a smile
And they're banished. We have turned our lions to stone.
We copy the copies of copies of maps
Of lands left to others to chance, and in this repetition
Press out the mysteries and bind them
Flat into a gift for a royal son.
What I fear is each long day's squint at the page.

One thin thread of real silver runs across the map,
Tracing the route the silver in the hold travels, wrested from
What was another world. Now it is our world, all of it.
That gleaming vein, now that, it could resolve into a garrote;
One bead of blood from a scratch with the tip of a knife,
Or a rat-fed flea in my bed--any of these
Will kill me, will have me long
For the past's mercy of fangs and claws.

Image: Library of Congress.

5 comments:

Slothrop said...

Pretty extraordinary...lulled by the stately music of the opening, you come to on precipices: split worlds & endless transformation. LOVE the lines about turning the lions to stone & silver dividing the world. Then there's the torsion from forced impotence - (navigational) tools becoming artifice - & I wonder how aware you are of how squinting transforms too?

I'm intrigued by the idea of copying a copy of a copy of a...etc. Like a hall of (warped) mirrors or Chinese whispers...is that how the continents became so beautifully deformed in those old maps? Each nameless hand leaving its small shift?

P.S. I've been reading Wojahn's "Ice House Lights" & it's really helped me out of a bad place. His imagery reminds me of yours - something about the necessary distance between divided selves - but his voice is more James Wright. Tho who can match Wright's blunt clarity: "I have wasted my life." Close, too close.

Anonymous said...

just a fascinating world of language constructed here. I don't feel very (sea)worthy. - J.S.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I've (semi) committed to somehow try to bring word things back to life:


I’m not tired
But I am tired of feeling tired
Sweaty body sex expired
Pin fired to cauterize dead love

White sheets
Billow in the summer breeze
Twirling underneath the trees
Orgiastic panic sleaze
Hearts cut out below the knees

I’m hot wired
In a rut forever mired
Children that were never sired
Things acquired that hold no meaning

White heat
Dance to Jackie’s reet petite
Round the yard in barefoot feet
Anchored like the seventh fleet
Hope to God I don’t repeat

Everything done wrong

J.S.

Maria Padhila said...

@slothrop: thanks again for all you give...from what i could figure in research, yep, they copied over and over. i was going for the experience of being part of a large shop/factory--venice was known for fine printing and art--maps were made the same way as paintings (or films today), with a big crew--no one knows who really illustrated many of the maps--and usually the head guy wasn't an explorer or expert, really, but was just good at drawing. he'd never been to the places, maybe never been on a ship.

Maria Padhila said...

@ j.s.--you know i'm always wondering what you're up to. thanks.