brown cartography

"Naming, however kind, is always an act of estrangement."
                                                                   ~ Aracelis Girmay

brown the soil, brown the sand we call sable that water 
               paints before it recedes into itself; brown 
the shutters of heaven from which the eyes of ancients 
               regard the world they left with us.

brown the sides of wooden ships swelled with 
               elegies of blind ambition, so certain
of following the fateful stars. brown the beautiful 
               bark of cassia shavings, the dark-

tipped nails of clove, the red-tinged roots
               of galangal. burnish the sides of brass
hawk bells until you can no longer tell their gleam
              from gold. the reefs are lined with coral,

the straits with subterranean eyes and mangrove 
             roots. crack open a rock to learn of lineage—
turn up the earth, run your brown fingers along 
             the burns and fading scars.  

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