cracked map

already we are boldly launched upon the deep,
glared at by clotted elliptical crags plotted onto maps
by dolphin sonar.
steep walls slow our fleet-feet, no bag of winds to
blow out of our lithe bagpipes. Have Travel!
bleats the ghost of a kingfisher felled in
a forever war; its history hidden in a conch.
two bouldered whales play Scylla and Charybdis;
skim stones on the elastic sea – threatening peace –
both mutually raising their eyebrows at passing ships
slipped in from foreign ports.
and on these ships – as I am – turbulence infests
the lungs (the life-giver)
choking out surf.

[toasting to you]                    /a prost! on dead ears/
I stay below deck, writing, lighting candles in portholes,
commuting each night with the wraith-kingfisher
it occurs to me that we could all be dead
/ghosts at the feast/
contained within 35mm reels
drowning in dust.

Ben Armstrong


2 thoughts on “cracked map

  1. progiestben says:

    Writer’s Note:

    This poem was written shortly after seeing a live version of Macbeth. At the time I was reading Moby Dick and ‘Cracked Map’ became an amalgamation of both these works.

    My aim was to create a high contrast between the more observational, neutral tone of the first stanza with the anxiety-fraught and inward-looking tone of the second, reinforcing the idea that the sea is at once beautiful and dangerous. Further, I wanted to explore the subject of how human beings react in isolation, how they can become schizophrenic and ‘invent’ people in their mind. Reading back, the ‘we could all be dead’ line also references a common twist ending in cinema which, along with music, is ever-present in much of my writing.


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