It’s his vision of this piss-colored parchment.
With griffins cinched near the edges of the frame.
As Africa, newly rivered, sits mysterious as the brain
Of his New World, its synopsis as curt as
Enjambment. Its proposed longitudes and latitudes
Meeting mid-ocean and forming warped crosses
Wrapping around the water and blunted by these bulges
In which Heaven, Earth, and Author spell themselves out in perfect Latin.
At night, or at day (whichever his diary will say),
A Dutch cartographer dreams, head dragging
Down on his desk, of Uccello’s Saint George and the Dragon.
How, in that flat world of triangle, circle, and square
The world seemed so eager to summarize itself:
Woman timed by rescue; man trapped in that stout,
Conning hourglass; a two-legged monster spit out
From a cave in a pose so wretched he wakes to trace it
As out his window the soft prismatic Dutch light
Slowly traces its rising lover, New York.
‘Map, Incomplete, 1665’ is excerpted from The Ground.
Chosen for FSG Poetry Month by Gregory Wazowicz.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of a collection of essays, When Blackness Rhymes with Blackness, and the first translation from Catalan into English of Salvador Espriu’s Ariadne in the Grotesque Labyrinth. He is an associate professor of English and the director of the Poetry Center at Stony Brook University. He lives in New York City and Barcelona.