The Inuit have tactile maps made of wood
with grooves and ridges to mark topography.
Kept deep in seal-skin pockets, hunters could
touch where they were in blinding snow
and on the ice where they needed to be.
The lines and curves of paper highway maps
guide but today our visuals are mostly apps.
There’s GPS, turn left, keep right, go slow
so clear, so precise, recited nearly like a recipe
or Alexa’s algorithms offering what we need to know.
Trail maps help find pathways through woods
and wilderness; atlases color countries’ sizes,
shapes and borders; geologic maps show rocks
and sedimentation; topographic maps, elevation,
the cartography of geography is how it works.
Memory maps like mnemonics help keep track.
Thematic maps as in weather maps, political maps,
maps of income, population, annual rainfall, cancer rates,
star charts, and even the moon’s surface as in selenography,
maps of the brain, the feet, the vertebrae, the heart
help us understand the nature, the scale, the spatial
positions of all the various and sundry parts.
There are maps for everything, almost.
And if poems are maps, they may decipher what
makes us what we are, so we might not become lost.