at the edge of the unknown venturing forward

Mapping systems are a long-running fascination for me; their purpose to fix into place and closely define a landscape that is context-bound. This poems does a brilliant job of applying those quandaries to the self.

What does self-discovery or self-revelation mean when the role of women in particular, has historically been so subordinate/dependent to or defined/intertwined by their relationships with others? Is it possible to remove a definition of the self from its surrounding relational context? What does it mean for a woman, mid-stride in life, to willing enter unknown territory and map new relationships or create a new key for reading the old maps?

Every Inch.jpg

[how much of the map] by Francine Steele

how much of the map could be labeled

terra incognita

how much unknown invisible to others how much of myself could I shake off

abandon the most remote regions those undiscovered places inside

[I barely know] exist

though the map is not the territory
how I am drawn to leave behind the pattern

for the path for a minute
an hour for one whole day

I’d be like a Wintu describing the body using cardinal directions

he touches me on the west arm
the river is to the east

when we return his east arm circles around me and the river

stays to the west

without that landscape to connect to who am I apart from what surrounds me

at the edge of the unknown venturing forward doubling back knowing

what I see depends on where I am
but not to be lost simply to be confused

five days or forty following the desire not to know

before the first turn where I am going

See her original formatting for this poem.