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  • Cartographies, and: Borges, and: Shackleton, and: Columbus, and: Stevenson, and: Song, and: Geometry and Angling
  • Christopher Robinson (bio)
  • CartographiesBorges

Anaximander drew the inhabited world on a tablet; Hecataeus made the map more accurate; it became a source of wonder.

But the map of my failures is uninspired, turning always to the left, to the left in a monotonous labyrinth—throw a stone:

you will hit one of my failures, or a descendent of one of my failed lives in the parks and cinema halls.

As a boy, I dropped an hour- glass, my grandfather’s, in the dun streets of Palermo, the sand spilled

at my feet, the dark world spread wide before me, that terra incognita hidden from the Great Cartographers, known only by the blind. [End Page 35]

  • Shackleton

Macklin said I’d been overdoing things, I should try to lead a more regular life. You’re always wanting me to give things up, I said. What is it I ought to give up? He said, Whiskey, boss. My whiskey.

We’d abandoned ship from the crush of pack ice, camped on a floe, snowblind, hoping to drift north. The dogs were our companions and after months of seal, their meat was delicious, but none of us could swallow it without slightly disappearing

in the enveloping white. What I would have given for some black rock to dig my boot into, woodscrews fitted to its sole. When we’d abandoned the men, six of us in the lifeboat, braving the ocean to reach the nearest whaling station, I thought of Greenstreet, and how he’d wept

when he spilled his ration of powdered milk, until we filled his cup from ours. Why the Antarctic, not the Mediterranean? On the ice, you do not need the expected epithets— the sense of your weight is always present, insignificant, treacherous, but present. [End Page 36]

  • Columbus

I came to serve you and now I have not a hair on me that is not white, my body infirm.

All has been taken away and sold, even the cloak I wore, without trial, to my great dishonor.

I have been blind, I have built on sand as though it were stone.

For one whole day and night it blazed and lightning broke so near my face and so violent

the spars and sails slapped and were nearly borne off to sea; I do not say it rained,

it was deluge: as with the earth, so with the psyche. [End Page 37]

  • Stevenson

The Art of Cartography attained such perfection that the map of a single province occupied a city,

the map of the empire, a province. In time, the Cartographers struck a map of the empire whose dimensions were exactly that of the empire

and which coincided point for point with it. They called this mappa mundi. The cloth of the world.

The Wise said it was not the scale, but the luster and advised men to polish the map as water

does a stone, as generations a sentence; I heeded none and drew a map at random

whose size began to consume me. At a venture, I set a scale in one corner and wrote up a story to the measurements.

The map was lost. I had no recourse but to pore through the story, inventory the allusions contained therein,

and with a pair of compasses, painfully design a map to suit the data.

I admit now, its artifice is too apparent, it does not tally and I cannot make it otherwise.

Do not fault me for inventing the world I was never fortunate enough to discover. [End Page 38]

  • SongGeometry and Angling

One cast line spawns one more line cast as when the fly line lies on the river’s complexion

and the eye flies straight to the opposite bank where a small animal has reversed

itself back into the underbrush. This is the nature of conversation: one withdraws to the wilderness



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