A Map Without Lines — A poem for Parsha Matot-Masei

I have a mixed relationship with maps.
July 13, 2023
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

For the western boundary you shall have the coast of the Great Sea; that shall serve as your western boundary. – Numbers 34:6

I have a mixed relationship with maps.
On the one hand, like many people of my gender
I can gaze at one for hours, fantasizing about being
in the exact spot where one place becomes another.

Have you ever been to the Four Corners Monument
where four American states touch each other?
I hear if you position yourself just right you can
be in all four of them at once. Amazing!

I don’t like when the lines become possessive.
When someone on one side of a border
feels more entitled to food and safety than
someone on the other, it reminds me how

artificial these lines are. Ages ago in text which
is not archaeologically provable, we were told
to cross a line, take everything there was on
the other side, and driving out everyone there.

I’m not into driving out people. I wonder if
this instruction really came from on high
or if some folks at the top were practicing
Jewsifest Destiny. (When you’re a poet

you’re allowed to make up words.)
On the other hand (we all come with two
no matter which side of the line we’re from)
it seems like ever since we crossed that border

one person or another has been trying to
push us into the sea. I don’t get how
despite what’s written down in our oldest text
every human has breath and blood in common.

I’ve got a map of the world hanging in the other room.
There’s a pin in it for every place I’ve been.
All the empty spaces are where I’d like to go.
I hope they receive me like I’m one of them.

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