MAP-MAKER Poem by Keki Daruwalla


Perhaps I'll wake up on some alien shore
In the shimmer of an aluminium dawn,
to find the sea talking to itself
and rummaging among the lines I've drawn;
looking for something, a voyager perhaps,
gnarled as a thorn tree in whose loving hands,
these map lines of mine, somnambulant,
will wake and pulse and turn to shoreline, sand.

The spyglass will alight on features I've forecast -
cape, promontory - he'll feel he's been here,
that voyaging unlocks the doorways of the past.

And deep in the night, in the clarity of dream,
The seafarer will garner his rewards,
raking in his islands like pebbles from a stream.


Does the world need maps, where sign and symbol,
standing as proxies, get worked into scrolls?
You see them, mountain chains with raingods in their armpits
and glaciers locked like glass-slivers in their folds.
Desert, scrub, pasture - do they need shading?
They're all there for the eye to apprehend.
A family of cactus and camelthorn tells you
where one begins and the other ends.

These questions confound me, I'd rather paint
for a while - a ship on the skyline,
or cloud-shadow moving like a spreading stain.
Yet they live, pencil strokes that speak for rain
and thunder; and die - maplines ghosting round
a cycloned island that has gone under.


Forget markings, forget landfall and sea.
Go easy Man, I tell myself; breathe.
Gulls will mark the estuary for you,
bubbles will indicate where the swamps seethe.
Map the wrinkles on the ageing skin of love.
Forget Eastings, Northings - they stand for order.
Cry, if you must, over that locust line
flayed open into a barbarized border.

Mark a poem that hasn't broken forth, map the undefined,
the swamp within, the hedge between love and hate.
Forget the coastal casuarinas line.

Reefs one can handle. It's lust that seeks
out its quarry that one cannot map, nor that
heaving salt of desire that floods the creeks.


If you map the future, while a millennium
moves on its hinges, you may find
the present turned into an anachronism.
This too is important - what is yours and mine,
The silk of these shared moments. But having stuck
to love and poetry, heeding the voice of reason;
and experiencing the different textures of
a season of love and love's eternal season,

I put a clamp on yearning, shun latitudes, renounce form.
And turn my eye to the far kingdom
of bloodless Kalinga battling with a storm.
Dampen your fires, turn from lighthouse, spire, steeple.
Forget maps and voyaging, study instead
the parched earth horoscope of a brown people.

Keki Daruwalla

Keki Daruwalla

Lahore / British India (Pakistan)
Error Success