Camera Lucida

Sometimes you uncrease an insert
     from a book you took with you
           when you first crossed 

the ocean--- plan of your city sketched
     by the famous architect from Chicago, 
           pressed into the rocks five thousand  

feet above the sea; nests of fiddlehead 
     fern thinned and transferred to concrete 
           boxes along the median. In February, 

thousands pack those narrow, winding streets
     to watch light glance off the many-
          petalled floats: orange champaka, stiff 

rust of everlasting garlands; school-
     children daubed in paint, hefting 
          crepe paper-wrapped arches above 

their heads. Light is often lost, 
     passing through the prisms of exchange; 
          distilled reflection in that world 

built as weak image, or so they claimed, of another 
     in the west. Had you lived in that older time, 
          would you have understood it was your body 

that mapmakers numbered with legends, part 
     after part: rivers, railways, public parks, 
          mile markers set along the mountain

road numbering the distance from yourself
     here and that version in the future 
          always just ahead? If you held

the map under a lamp and laid a piece
     of vellum over it, you could trace with
          a pencil all the places you still

remember--- the two magnolia trees 
     in the neighbor's yard before someone 
          cut them down; the empty lot

filled with waist-high grass. The public
     school painted urine yellow, thick
          afternoon fog rolling in like a sea.

Raw laugh of a gecko watching 
     from the eaves. How afraid you were 
         of leaving, perhaps never to return. 

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