Open the Atlas

Open the atlas. Here the world is calm
and clear and amenable,
the continents all lined up to appear
on the same apron stage;
the globe massaged
into a planisphere.

The map lies docile on the page,
all frontiers fixed, the oceans still.
No earthquakes or eclipse.
Hot desert, forest, ice,
fjord and Everest
all soft under the fingertips.

For sure the frontiers will not hold.
Time will bleach out
imperial colours.
Catastrophe will sap all
contours, kings, caudillos,
ayatollahs.

Yet for a moment taste
the quiet of illusion,
the continents at rest,
entirely still,
ocean becalmed,
the nations motionless.

– David Morphet 2005