Anatomy of Distance

There are machines for this — 

lifting back the skin of the map
so the border can be laid down again,

the pieces of river
placed at an easy angle.

You want to be sure you won’t slice
any place you can’t handle

seeing stripped. Carry a tape measure
set to whip back

when you’ve gone too deep.
The hills keep humming their low sounds.

A sextant flattens the terrain
but the eye unaided

is sharper than a shark’s tail.
Distance is best left in rain,

to soak until the pages
become a clump, wet mush

of the actual world.
Cut the sweep spare

enough to throw a bridge across,
a sturdy one, so you can cross looking down.

Water makes you want more
distance, and distance starts to resemble

other things — your yellow tie,
the orchid crumpling on your windowsill.

From here, anything
can be another thing.


Emily Mohn-Slate’s recent poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Cimarron ReviewIndiana ReviewPoet LoreThe PinchThe Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She was runner-up for the 2014 Indiana Review Poetry Prize. She holds an MFA from Bennington College, and teaches writing at Chatham University and Carnegie Mellon University.