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Hayden Saunier: A Cartography of Home

My mother was a place. She was the where 
from which I rose. Once on my feet, I touched 
my forehead to her knee, then thigh, then hip,
waist, shoulder as I grew into my own wild country, 
borderless, then bordered, bound 
by terrors, terra incognita and salt seas. 
I took my compass rose from her, my cardinal points, 
embodiments of wind and names of cloud, 
but every symbol in the legend now 
belongs to me—rivers, topographic lines and shading, 
back roads, city streets, highway lanes that end 
abruptly at the broken edge of cliffs 
where dragons snorting fire 
ride curls of figured waves in unknown seas. 
Monsters mark the desert blanks on her charts too. 
Before she died, I folded myself back 
to pocket-size, my children tucked inside 
like inset maps and I lay my head down on her lap. 
My mother stroked my hair 
the way her mother had stroked hers, 
and hers before hers, on and on, and we 
remained like that— not long— but long enough 
to make an atlas of us, perfect bound, 
while she was still a place and so was I. 

Hayden Saunier is a poet, actor and teaching artist living in the Philadelphia area. Her books include A Cartography of Home (Terrapin Books, 2021).

Copyright 2021 Hayden Saunier.

7 comments on “Hayden Saunier: A Cartography of Home

  1. Alyssa Sineni
    April 1, 2021

    “and hers before hers, on and on, and we
    remained like that— not long— but long enough ”

    What a beautiful poem! Thank you….


  2. David Ades
    March 31, 2021

    I love this too – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barbara Huntington
    March 31, 2021

    Beautiful. My mother is New Mexico.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Terry Culleton
    March 31, 2021

    Really beautiful and meticulous piece. Very moving.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rose Mary Boehm
    March 31, 2021

    Extraordinary poem, moving, well crafted, gorgeous… it has everything. And made me remember my mother.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beth Peyton
    March 31, 2021

    Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for this. “My mother was a place” changes everything…

    Liked by 1 person

    March 31, 2021

    love this poem! Great imagery & a powerful ending:

    “long enough
    to make an atlas of us, perfect bound,
    while she was still a place and so was I”.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on March 31, 2021 by in Environmentalism, Most Popular, Poetry and tagged , , .

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