After Great Pain—
You’ve earned a weekend at the inn.
Insight resides in the toiletries and Egyptian sheets.
Invent a footpath to your interior world—
then look around without regret.
Innocent again you take inventory of the self
and realize there never was an influenza
of the soul. Forget sex. If you’d like,
you can become invisible. Walk
naked through a railway station until a deep voice
on the intercom announces:
outgoing train to Strong Relief—
Know that the inability to stay is
no crime. In your next incantation
invent the answer to living without love.
What the maps won’t tell you
is how the story ends, if he travels
across oceans to rescue himself-
herself like a stubborn harbormaster of the heart.
The maps don’t mention vast underwater volcanoes
of lovers or the different archipelagos
in the shape of penny candy, the lingering vowels—
followed by one moan-filled consonant.
Would you consider journeying to True North
how might we travel there—
ferryboat or pirate ship, sunfish or float?
Do you know the lighthouse is also home to the foghorn—
have you ever thought about
how this morning’s sound and light show
is an improvised soundtrack to keep us safe?
Marie Tharp constructed a map of the ocean floor
although she’d never visited there, no one had,
and eventually she drew her dimensions true.
Her map told her what hadn’t yet occurred.
You can draw coordinates out of darkness—
you can build a map where one wasn’t there before.
Sweet poet, you can cross oceans—know a little of what is unknown.
Susan Rich is the author of Cloud Pharmacy, shortlisted for the Julie Suk prize, and The Alchemist’s Kitchen, Finalist for the Washington State Book Award. Her poems appear in the Harvard Review, O Magazine, and World Literature Today. A Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems is due out from Salmon Press in 2022. She lives and writes in Seattle, WA on the edge of the Puget Sound.