Arts & Culture » Culture

Maps

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Maps
Doug Tanoury, Detroit
Honorable mention, Poetry

Sister Antonina’s map
Of the world worked
Like a large window shade
That pulled down
And went up noisily
In true window shade fashion,
Its roller turning made the sound
Of a morning dove cooing, and
The map’s fabric winding up
Were wings flapping.
I remember France was green,
The Brest jutting out toward England
And the North Atlantic.
Italy was faded terra cotta, almost a pink,
Against a deep blue Adriatic.

In fourth grade
At Nativity of Our Lord school,
I sat in the front desk
Where I memorized
The shapes of continents and countries.
When I passed the map
Going to lunch or returning from recess
I would run my hand
Across the Mediterranean
To feel the texture of the fabric
And hear the tum-tum sound
Of my fingers drumming
Against Greece and the Aegean.
Occasionally, on toetips and stretching
I could brush a finger
Along St. Bernard’s Pass.

I was always sad to hear
The morning dove calling
And wings flapping
As the world retracted
To reveal arithmetic problems
Or spelling assignments
On the blackboard
Written in Sister Antonina’s
Precise penmanship.
For reasons that mystify me still,
I failed the fourth grade,
Although I stuck my hands
Into every southern sea,
And I touched Athens,
And I touched Rome,
And something in them
Touched me.

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