copyright Anne 2008
The islands of the Aegean Archipelago
Were scattered like the islands of
Her memory of Helen.
The largest was the landscape of love,
Shared, then lost, the most populated with memories.
Then on to the most craggy of the lot:
Rough spots, cliff-hangers, if you will--
Some that had left them dangling by a fraying rope,
Some whose views from the top had been mesmerizing.
After that, the smaller islands:
One, merely a glance;
Another, a longer look across a table;
The next, a tear that left a trail of black down her cheek;
Finally, the smallest but dearest--her voice.
The islands fade now, but her voice
Is the chime of memory
Each time the wind blows.
Islands keep appearing.
Some jutting up abruptly,
Some playing Hide and Seek
Like my dream lover.
She appears, she disappears,
She is angry, hurt,
But always indignant,
Justified, always right, and
Alone is the largest island:
Safe, a fortress against feeling,
Like Jonah in the Whale.
The islands that jut up in this
Small but potent:
The most rugged islands are
Pain that others caused and
Memory that refuses to forgive.
"Lean into the sharp edges,"
Helen Keller said. She bled but
She could see for the first time
A world that had denied itself to her.
And there are other islands,
One for business,
One for the impersonal voice,
I get to visit often—like going to the mall.
Like reading the daily paper—
Mundane, pedestrian, ordinary,
Yet still compartmentalized—
Shall I go to this store? Or that?
Shall I read the sports section?
But once I saw that private island,
The one where my lover lives,
The one that is vulnerable,
My ship keeps steering there-
And I want to be her captive.
These islands are my own and
They are uncharted as yet.
The first crude maps gave only
An imperfect representation,
Like an old sheet of Polaroid film
Whose development had stopped
Somewhere in the process,
Leaving only a suggestion of
What was there.
The later maps got the distances correct:
4,776 miles to
4,508 miles to
But from which island?
The largest which offered the most
To its inhabitants?
The one that had been cultivated
To provide the nourishment?
The one with the volcano
That seeped its sorrows?
The one that had been bombed
To test the weapons?
The cartographers had a field day.
How far was it from nourishment to
Seeping sorrows, for example?
Did the tides of a Full Moon
Hide more shoreline?
Where the hell were these islands?
Why did distance matter?
They finally gave up. So did I.
The changing landscape provided
Nothing solid from which to gauge
The distance between each island:
Only the mainland remained a fixed point.