The Cartographer’s Last Day
He knows the place, the crop
between the shallow hills,
at the parting of a cart track
or on a cliff’s narrow ledge.
Each journey has a cost.
Barbed wire, brambles, a horsefly’s sting,
his arms threaded with scarlet,
the juice of sloes, wild damsons, plum,
blood, his white hair invaded by leaves and burrs.
This is his lot.
Once, upended by a stile
and full length upon the grass, he found an orchid.
A tiny slip of a thing, and never said a word.
Others have tried to follow him on his wild scramblings,
searched the fields at dawn but found nothing.
He knows the source,
the lip of a well, buried beneath nettles,
a chapel felled into a wood
where he eats his lunch, back against the wind.
He sees ghosts, but never marks them on his map.
This is a time before satellites,
when people found their way through the world
by marking it, pushing through
waist high in bracken.
He pushes on and down into the valley
where the green covers his head like the sea.
First published in A Child’s Last Picture Book of the Zoo,
Cinnamon Press 2012
Louise Warren was born and grew up in the West Country and now lives in London. Her first collection A Child’s Last Picture of the Zoo won the Cinnamon Press debut poetry competition and was published in 2012. A pamphlet, In the scullery with John Keats, also published by Cinnamon, came out in 2016. Her poems have been widely published in magazines including Ambit, The Butchers Dog, Stand, Poetry Wales and Rialto. In 2018 she won first prize in the Prole Laureate Poetry Competition with her poem The Marshes which appears in her new pamphlet, John Dust, illustrated by the artist John Duffin and published in 2019 by V.Press.
Louise writes that “He was very much a west countryman and worked as a Surveyor for the Ordnance Survey, a job he loved … his love of the outdoors is evident in this poem.” She has very happy memories of her father, whose birthday was on 17 April. Good Dadhood has pleasure in celebrating it with Louise here today.