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Erín Moure: Map of Calgary

This piece is about 5 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Erín Moure and Jacket magazine 2007.

Map of Calgary
                              (tremored after O.A.’s Celan)

I touched the fur on her head, her head bowed, she at the edge of the bed, sitting bowed, I touched her hair, full resonance, the bell.

Flag lashing against the pole, no rain.

I leaned and touched her head, she did not look at me.

She touched my palm with her hair.

The flagropes tremoured.

Spoke a leaf.

The herald of sheep’s coats.

(When I look up: a small thread, an alarm bell.)


The smallest of white curls, I look close, smile.
Ramses is in the flowerpots (an email from the pyramids).

She touches her rib cage, gingerly,
to her right: it’s hurting here now.

I am given over to language.

The seeds of the cosmos grow up as poppies, I suggest.

Red poppies, she asks?

The flagropes still, sunlit. No noise on the metal.
I’ll open that door when I come to it, I tell her.

She lies back. This feels right, feels better.

A ribprint on my hand. I save it.

(A coyote in pixels. To show her.)


On the right side, the rash over the shoulder blade.
Curvature and trust.

This in the spine’s bone. (Listening.)

There is no word, not even one from on high, that has any right....

Her knees up, sideways, stabilize space here, such
thin arm.

When you look at the clouds she says, (Speaking.)
you can see images.

I saw the two dogs playing, the dark one held the light one down.
Then a cat came.

The curve and tilt of that vertebral column. Press it. Press it again.

That feels good, she says.

When I look at her, then, now,
what image?


Solemnity lives here.
A quiet word glimmer

in dark space as the creams are worked in. This helps
the itch, she says.

Magpies rise out of the aspens, a truck door clangs
shut. The duck slough clots with midsummer grasses,
green swaths awaiting dusk rain.

She waits near these hills. To the right of the spine’s curve
and over the shoulder, one small stitch
blue where the skin is missing.

Someday these aspens will be mowed under?

Torn sideways by the blade of machines?
And if she can’t see it?

To touch aspen. Rises the leaf smell. Flag’s clatter.
Just like that. In memory: a map is what appears.


In the photo, her thin arms, hands held over her eyes.
She is playing the role of “see no evil.”

There is one person on each side. Both look
outward. One, young, is not listening. One, older,
is not speaking.

I look at her thin arms.
Her shoulders lost in the folds of her dress.

The dress I bought with her before the blindness. Its colour.
We walk out of the store to the Walmart parking lot and breathe
fresh air.

Now she listens to the radio in the hospice and speaks of New Orleans.
In the weeks since I wrote “in the photo,” I’ve thrown it away.

She speaks and I listen, watching.

When a blind person holds their hands over their eyes
to face us,
what are we asked to see?


Each day I touch my own face and hear the

I walk her last walk of October through the suburb past the duck
slough to the Co-op store.

Autonomy does move us here.
Solace a word. Light’s funnel and
the crevices of light we enter now.

“What time is it?” she asked on the Saturday. Cinci şi cinci,
I answered.

In me is a hard shell the size of a walnut, under the left ribs.
When it presses, I am in the water.
You who maketh the long journey.

“Does it hurt?” I asked.
She opens her mouth. This means thank you, or no.

(or I am in the river)

(wading fiercely)

(there is no shore)


I crossed to her between the high field and the lights of the city.
I crossed where the brown deer cross at night from the hill into the backyards of Calgary,

Alberta, Canada, Western Hemisphere, The World.

Above me, Orion:
constellate here.

My hand held cupped to her furred cranium, still
until the warmth

And I look down
And comes the snow.


Found you in the field. At first sight
you are a white bag blown into the bushes.

And me the one blind now, unable to see clear.

So I do what we once did with the photo of the coyote
that I brought to where you were sleeping,
on the screen that helps the blind to see.

I zoom in.
It is you who are the coyote. Do you see you running?

You are in the field of late summer grasses. You look like you are
praying, but there are too few pixels to know for sure.

You are wearing (there is a shadow) the huge dark glasses.
Your arms are forward.

I know by the grass and by your arms that you are picking berries.
This knowing is a proof of memory, incised in the forever that is who I am.

No one took this picture.
It occurs in the future, where I first touch it.

This is a map of Calgary, I unfold it to find you.
Coyote. Mère.


To be so technical that all emotion is abraded, and so clear that the poem is utterly obscure. As a map is. And as each map contains a mistake to identify its maker, so here too.

Erín Moure

Erín Moure

Erín Moure is the author of over fifteen collections of poetry including Furious (winner of the 1988 Governor General’s Award for poetry), Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person (nominated for the 2002 Canadian Griffin Award for Poetry), Little Theatres (2005) winner of the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and O Cadoiro (2007).

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