On the pages I am turning are early pictures of the world,
the continents and oceans so erroneously shaped
it is hard to tell which is which at first,
as if they were drawn by a child or someone blindfolded.
Along the shorelines, tiny ships are under sail,
blown by the pursed mouth of a cloud with an angry face,
and sea beasts prowl the waves that lap at the margins
where knowledge trails off and ink lines squiggle
into a vast unknown, an incognita
far from the old garden of Europe in the center
where the mapmaker sits bent over his slanted desk,
touching the contours of the earth with the tip of his pen.
The library windows are streaming with summer rain
as I sit bent over this book of ancient maps,
feeling how the edges of my own world blur into tundra
and imagining what monsters must be illustrated there
far from the middle of what little I know.
But I am oriented here, encased in a local thunderstorm,
flipping through these imagined worlds, noticing
that east, not north, is always at the top where mornings
begin and discovering at the bottom of one intricate page
an early version of Australia, so far from anything
that it even has its own sun drawn in the sky overhead.
Now that is the kind of sun I would like to be under
this afternoon, basking naked on an arc of beach
at the end of the world while sea monsters writhe offshore,
then lying down prone on the sand, my arms stretched out
so wide I can feel the slight curvature of the earth
as I work effortlessly on my imaginary tan.