The Vinland Map

When we take off from Reykjavik, the ground is parchment and inkwash. Black veins
of rivers, black lakes, the ridged vacant green-brown-gold of a relief map.

In school our crackling pull-down maps were so outdated there were still expanses
of white on them. White which meant deepest darkest. Terra Incognita. Which means:

what the map disguises, what we don’t recognize yet. Those troubled me as a child,
blanks and the beyonds of edges, the sprawl of Mercator, the globe flattened

into parabolas of Earth. We like the world contained, defined by its names, even as we want boundaries to push against. Icy Greenland, green Iceland. I trace the flight route

in the airline magazine and look out at the dark Atlantic. Whatever its provenance,
the Vinland map feels true. The nervous notched teeth of its coastlines, the jigsaw

islands’ orderly drift. How the known world huddles its landmasses together
under the careful arc of the North. At the edge of the western ocean a floating fragment

of the new world stares out like a mask: single skull eye, open mouth.

Debra Allbery’s first poetry collection, Walking Distance, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, and her book Fimbul-Winter was awarded the Grub Street National Book Prize in Poetry.