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My only country

You flip the map of France open,
smooth it over your coffee table, scatter
chocolates on the metaphor of landscape,
and mark in a sweet dotted line where you bicycled
along blue curves of rivers into ochre polygons
of cities. “Here, have the whole Dordogne,”
you urge, “the most beautiful river in the world.”
I rest the chocolate on my tongue and taste
clear water, fish darting in a slow, complex current.
“Eat a city,” you offer. “Genève, wide boulevards;
Rouen, most beautiful cathedrals.” I bite the chocolate
in half and raise my eyes to your ceiling,
dark timbers arching above me, distant as God.

These are the trails on a map of my only country,
red freeways the Greyhounds went barreling down
while I slept. Bread crumbs strewn over Salt Lake City
covered in springtime snow, where I was hungry and found
the best meal I’ve had in my life – fish, slaw, mashed potatoes –
in a café I never could find again. Blood on the Sonoran
Desert where I took the long way to learn not to trust
any stranger who promises saguaros and stars,
and swears he won’t touch me. Diamonds
for Sault Ste Marie, wind slicing off Whitefish Bay,
while I waited all night, cold and ambivalent,
for a bus headed east, for the rest of my life,
for the words to tell all my dear stories.

all rights reserved Josephine Bridges ©2012-2013