Eugenio Montejo: “My Country in an Antique Map”

My Country in an Antique Map

The lines of the cartographer did not lie
as he copied down his dream for us.
It is true that many river channels
he invented, and that our mountains
do not actually reach the south,
nor does the sea touch them,
though it tries with all its
melodramatic contours.
Beneath the touch of
the cartographer’s colors,
the size of the islands becomes
something different entirely.

And yet, he was exact in his reverence
and in the glow of his astonished eyes
that beheld the light shining down
through the palm trees.
What does it matter if Orinoco
swells, like desire, a bit too far north,
or that this peninsula has the face
of a woman who seems to speak?

The lines of the cartographer never lied:
he was here in Manoa, at the end
of a rainbow that started from
that legendary city of gold
and from beyond the infinite
innocence of a paradise
that made every step of
every journey worthwhile.

What more truth can we ask for?
The maps were love letters,
sailors’ tattoos, earnest pages,
all meant to tell us
that life is only eternal
on this side of the Atlantic.

Eugenio Montejo

Translated from Spanish by Paul Weinfield, © 2015
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