The Earliest Map
by Ruth Padel
Two hundred dry miles north of Babylon
they found the earliest map.
A delta, one river through it
four or five thousand
years ago inscribed
on a small clay leaf.
This neat obedient man
sitting beside me in the hot night train
to Larissa, traces Greek football pools
on yellow paper. What else is there?
We transfer space,
hide in the yellow spice of the acacia,
the routes by which we came
untraceable, except the stigmata
of educator, doctor, rail-time-table.
We live Babylonian hours, minutes, space.
Their "three hudnred and sixty"
enfolds us. Their river
veins through to our end:
this shanty littoral,
a wishful, forgetting mind
penned on a dry clay leaf.