Blue maps in the long, bright room,
blank maps in the room full of tousled,
barretted, Brylcreemed cartographers

blackening the blue borders of nameless
countries, unknown rivers, unconquered
mountains, the deltaic silt that requires

one of the #3 pencils the teacher
can only lend. Oh, the pencil box!
The civilizing pencil box itself

a map by now more palimpsest
than rendering! Yet Rome remains
visible in the far northwest, Spain

drapes one end & Mongolia redly
dominates the flap where socket
& post thunk & un-thunk daylong.

The gigantic windows rattle. The time
to sharpen pencils has passed, the coast
of Brazil full of complicated inlets,

Greenland more so, Iceland not
the coldest place in the world.
Oh kids doomed one way or another,

here comes the man in white overalls,
swinging the wire-mesh trays
of morning milk onto the art table!

Like everyone else, he knows the blue
maps are most beautiful blank, so for luck
& a glad secret, erase a line of latitude,

leave a city lost. The rivers of people
in the cartoon metropolis that filled
the dark yesterday will never know.


A native of the Pine Barrens region of southern New Jersey, John Repp has lived for many years in northwestern Pennsylvania. His latest book is Fat Jersey Blues, published in 2014 by the University of Akron Press.