Vintage World Map 1850 Cartographer unknown


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.