Friday, August 10, 2007

The Atlas

The atlas was yellow and not very clean,
And covered in fingerprint-marked polythene,
And dog-eared pages and droplets of tea
Had soiled these crisp pages of geography.

It lived in a bureau behind a glass pane,
Surrounded by Dickens and Shelley and Twain.
Those leather bound volumes so solemn and proud,
Were never removed to be quoted aloud.

The atlas was taller and looked out of place,
And seemed to be lacking in dignified grace.
But every Saturday, after our tea,
Grandma would carefully reach for the key.

Onto the bureau’s drop leaf it was spread,
And silently and reverentially read.
Bosomy grandma and five year old child,
By oceans and mountains and countries beguiled.

We sailed up to the Congo and flew down to Faro,
And scaled the purple-tinged Kilimanjaro,
The fawn-coloured deserts we crossed on our camels
And laughed at the crazy Australian mammals.

We had to walk sideways when visiting Chile,
And both of us thought that Nepal was too hilly,
We sailed the Pacific that straddled two pages,
And crossed the Antarctic in several stages.

Too soon, oh, too soon, it was time to restore
The book to the bureau and lock the glass door.
And on my way home, how my thoughts swooped and swirled,
Impatiently waiting to travel the world.

Now, once in a season, I take down the book,
And, eyes soft and dewy, I tearfully look
At far-distant cities and rivers that wind
Through the fertile green forests that grow in my mind.

These evergreen forests I never will smell,
The tundra, the ice caps, the great ocean swell.
The vast mountain ranges I never will climb,
Because, while distracted, I ran out of time.

And my stomach feels hollow, my hand starts to shake,
And I curse at my senile and stupid mistake,
And I slam the book shut for I simply can’t bear
The dreams of my childhood exposed to the air.

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