Best of the Net 2014  

Myopia: A Cartography


Friend, I do not wish to mire here
any longer on the caldera, hot & molten

            in a yellow bathing suit, coaxing
            an inferno out of this empty vat.

I musk among other creatures
who can't see well: wolverines,
vampire bats, camels, rhinos.

            There is a rhino inside my bones.
            I want more menace out of poor eyesight—

If I, too, can charge
at dark cloud-things!

Friend, I don't wish to skulk one moment longer
            in front of this mirror, fooled by distortion,
                        image intercepting rib, a chiaroscuro in these

blind, blinking eyes. How inane, to revert
to this elemental self—all cheekbone
and contour, an easy obsession

            but never the cure. My habitat is far away.
            This nightgown reveals one rib too many.


The vanishing point is elsewhere. For my doctor, the pineal
gland regulates sleep. For Descartes, it rules reason.

For me it fails both. No sleep is sound. I can't calculate distance.

Sometimes I can't even measure what's between my hand
                        and this spoon—my hip
                        and this hand—my eyelid
                        and this paper—

I can't name the direction of the clearest E—
nor the miles to the nearest town—

But friend, I won't mourn this blimp-shaped eye forever.
I won't bury my head on your lap,
stranded at this station where trains

                        pass but never stop, thunder blowing
                        up my ears, sight, silence, skirt.


Without water, flora will spawn
Holes, whole, holes, whole, holes, whole.

                        Holes in teeth, holes on a coat,
                        Another hole adorns my suitcase.

            When even tubas fail, and sunlight
            Tears a hole in my retina,

Holes are the only truth.
Holes on the roof, holes in the dirt
Holes will make us complete again.


Who will ride again
the incandescent bicycle, now that vision
has left us? If we consider the parallel

            shadows, the vanishing point falls
            on the fishbowl, where jellyfish
            shrink and squids leak sad inks.

O, to be permanently
challenged. Sometimes we wake up
with dive-bombs in our eyes.

Trapped sobs. Sometimes when we try to speak,
we can't even stammer.

- Sally Wen Mao (from Big Lucks)