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The map, by Britta Benson

Today’s poem is based on an observation I made on the ferry crossing from Cairnryan in Scotland to Belfast in Northern Ireland. I watched two elderly ladies in full waking gear getting a map out, discussing their plans and then, trying to fold the map back into its original shape – we’ve all been there. Let’s just say it was quite a sizeable map and the spectacle sparked off this poem:

The map

A country unfolds easily.

Stiff paper rises, peaks,

then suddenly lies flat

on the round table,

the séance can begin.

Futures are planned,

routes followed by an eager finger.

Coffee inevitably spills,

a carefree crisp tumbles

onto this sea made of trees

and cannot sink.

Time travels across the North Channel,

arrives flat calm.

The map does not,

cannot ever be contained again

and stubbornly refuses to be folded back

into a palm sized rectangle.

I watch this fight for freedom,

see the tear rip right through the middle

where the paper split in near fatal resistance.

A tiny elderly lady pushes

the unruly map into her day pack

as she gets ready to disembark the ferry.

Her walking boots mean business.

The country has been tamed

into a relentless yoga position.

The crumpled tiger. Poor thing.

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