Map House

Stet domus haec donec fluctus formica marinos ebibat, et totum testudo permabulet orbem.*

I took the map and folded us together,
pressing Front Street into my peeling, sea-perished door.
A chiasmic trench scored the pale Atlantic –
an ant of memory draining the flowing ocean.
The snell haar swathered the harpstrings of Brooklyn Bridge,
Scots dew beading its idiom about Peck Slip
and cabling down Water Street, while South Street Seaport
flooded into Wardie Bay. In the Brooklyn sun
Wouter van Twiller wandered down the Granton groyne
(Coney Island whitefish slopping amongst the weed)
with axe heads in his hands, and nails, and beads,
laid them at St Colm’s feet, who bore them up
and walked the Don’t-go-on-us out to Inchcolm,
where Noten Eylant ran a sliding wave along Emonia’s flanks;
he bore them down the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, down
Pine and Cedar Streets, to you, to me where
Mingia muerta! the hogbacked stone, the chill, slimed rock
of the well, of Pagganck beneath shod feet ran
the el all the way down out past Cameron Toll
through Pearl Street and thence past Jeremy’s Ale House
to your unseen door.

And here, in my unmapped room, I look out across the Forth,
and see only the leaping, unreal flare
of the refinery flame, and,
irregularly, aircraft passing overhead. Slowly,
above the water, they pivot, and turn,
coming in to land.

* Medieval inscription over the doorway of the Abbey of St. Colm, on Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth: ‘May this house stand until an ant drains the flowing sea, and a tortoise walks around the whole world’.

(This one an old love poem now an elegy for a lost home.)