Flat as the table
It’s placed on.
Nothing moves beneath it
and it seeks no outlet.
Above – my human breath
creates no stirring air
and leaves its total surface
Its plains, valleys are always green,
uplands, mountains are yellow and brown,
while seas, oceans remain a kindly blue
beside the tattered shores.
Everything here is small, near accessible.
I can press volcanoes with my fingertip,
stroke the poles without thick mittens,
I can with a simple glance
encompass every desert
with the river lying just beside it.
A few trees stand for ancient forests,
you couldn’t lose your way among them.
In the east and west,
above and below the equator –
quiet like pins dropping,
and in every black pinprick
people keep on living.
Mass graves and sudden ruins
are out of the picture.
Nations’ borders are barely visible
as if they wavered – to be or not.
I like maps, because they lie.
Because they give no access to the vicious truth.
Because great-heartedly, good-naturedly
they spread before me a world
not of this world.
Wislawa Szymborska, in ‘The New Yorker, April 14, 2014
(translated from the Polish, by Clare Cavanagh)