Because Once All Mapmakers Were Illusionists

You will arrive at a point
where the marked path fades,
perhaps just beyond the ford
of the third river, only to discover
that this prairie map is shaded
to conceal the western trail.
To reveal the cartographer’s
sleight of hand, you may try
sleeping unclothed beneath
the oxblood stars. You may
build bonfires in mounds
of grass circled with fire breaks.
You may adorn the wagon
with sprays of wildflowers.
Still, the grass does not grow
in pretty rows, and the prairie
refuses to open before you. 
Do not discount the thunder
that shakes the sod. You may
be forced to follow the sound
of wild hooves over the horizon.




Assets & Heirs

The map you left behind on your death
contains no borders and no names—

just topography that fades from dense
forest green to desert beige, the course

of rivers marked in thick, black lines
bending around the outcrops, the creeks

thin and faint. Loved ones gather
to annotate this web of mysteries. 

Legendless and faced with unknown terrain,
they fumble figuring north from south.

Only the youngest knows where to draw
the skeletal tree to mark your grave,

where to dig for the singed remains
of the hummingbird moth you plucked

from the campfire flame, singing
Now, now, you’ve blazed enough for us.




Sandy Longhorn is the author of Blood Almanac (Anhinga Press, 2006). New poems have appeared recently in The American Poetry Journal, Copper Nickel, diode, Free Verse, Redactions, and elsewhere. Her blog, Myself the only Kangaroo among the Beauty, can be found at

Photo of prairie sky courtesy Pixabay.

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