A map of where they are

Lisa Matthews

He's waiting in the "would like to be understood" queue,
she's sending a roll of twenty pounds to the office in a plastic tube
he's holding out for a good wave and paddles madly when he sees one arriving,
small arms in an enormous sea.

At the door of the vet's the receptionist hunts in her bag for keys,
at Sainsbury's two men fight over the last small trolley,
the lighthouse on its outcrop still seems sure of its place,
a text message bounces back from space, "I'm leaving you" it says.

They're stuck on the slip road at junction sixteen, kids screaming
Daddy grips the wheel and imagines gradients of escape
Mummy reads the mind's road signs she's ignored all this time.

At the fish quay they remember the sound
of the boats coming home, landing a catch, everything fitting:
moorings, river mouth and then in over the bar.

The trees in the park look like green wigs from up here,
their roots tiny hairs disturbing soil and rabbit runs.
The nuns outside La Sagesse hug their torsos and mind the cold,
while in the Dene the Ouseburn runs past my dead friend's house
I could draw a topological map of grief; show the corners
bereavement careers round but the "you are here" arrow would be missing.

The data set of the heart, multilayered and not just concerned with
physiology. Draw a line, make a mark, trust that a foot is a foot;
that a metre will do as it should.
Imagine your heart like a smooth disc inside your chest.
Imagine a map of the world; it makes flat that which is round

She's waiting in the "would like to understand" queue and the world
carries on around and under her. Take away the maps and legends
and what are we left with but space?

Lisa Matthews

Lisa Matthews was born in Benwell in Newcastle upon Tyne and has lived in the north east all her life. She is a poet, novelist, creative writing tutor and co-founder of the Blue Room, a performance venue for new women writers from the North. Lisa is also a co-founder and continued organiser of proudWORDS, the UK's only creative writing festival run by and for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, for which she also acts as Chair of the management committee.

Currently Writer in Residence at the PEALS Research Institute, Lisa divides her time between her own writing and community work as part of her residency. As well as facilitating writing workshops in the north east to help people explore their hopes and fears surrounding the new genetics and biotechnology, she also works with medical students and staff in Newcastle and Durham Universities, where she uses Literature and creative writing to make trainee doctors better communicators.

Her first collection, Postcard from a Waterless Lake was published by Diamond Twig in 2002.

A map of where they are resulted from Lisa's participation in the Poetry Experiment for National Poetry Day 2005.

Read more poems from Lisa, with more recent news: Welcome to the airlock, Ortolan and Preen.


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A map of where they are © 2005 Lisa Matthews: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.