Someone brought the map from another country, walking with a back cutlass straight, pointing skyward from soil. Someone wrapped it in cotton t-shirts, laid it down as one would a homebound grandmother, laid it down in a suitcase.

Someone hung it on the wall, on the eyeball of a nail, in the too small living room or in the kitchen where it would brace against steam.

Beautiful map, made of thin black velvet. Outlined in sequins, or silver dust or blue ink. Harboring ghosts in the threads.

Inside its border is the image of a hummingbird angled above a red hibiscus. Or an aging monument left by gold-seeking explorers. And squeezed in between the images are the names of places:

Siparia. Icacos
inching down the coast
toward Serpent’s Mouth.

Outside the map, outside the border, are no hummingbirds or silver dust. There are mugs with dried cocoa cracking on the rim. There are bills snarling out the mouths of their envelopes. There are smudges and breadcrumbs and names slapped on prescription bottles. There is snow, ice, leafless trees.

Mum map. Silent map.
Map won’t say “Daughter, daughter,
bring your wrecked body home.”


From What Noise Against the Cane by Desiree C. Bailey. © 2021 Desiree C. Bailey. Reproduced by permission of Yale University Press.