CHRISTINA OLIVARES

Teaching the Map

When I showed the boys a map of the world
I knew it was a bad way to teach them
The lesson—the map does not demonstrate well the bigness
Of the world. Only that Georgia is orange and that the sea is a uniform
Shade of blue. None of us have ever been to Georgia. Why is Asia
Cut in half? one asks. Why do they call me African? says
another. Why don’t the islands get drowned
By the sea, and where do all the names come from? Reduced, a map is
A reduction. We are an unchecked species; we destroy
The planet with maps. What is a border? one asks, while another
Furtively gazes at his crush, sitting beside him, elbows
Touching unconsciously, pencils scattered like lost boats. That,
That. The swollen sting of his loving you, the quiet
In his mind that paints you distinct and shining, that is the border
We create and recreate. New York is yellow. The sea remains blue:
The sea is not actually blue, you know, another says. I know, says
Another—it is the color of the sky. Why is the sky blue? Because space
Is black. Black like me, says another. Black is beautiful, he repeats.
Galaxy children. Space children. Come to school to learn what a border is.
Come to school to cut yourself out of a thin paper of naming
Wrap yourself, perhaps find protection, not at all, or:
Confusion is its own form of uplift. Borders sometimes will separate
Us from ourselves. One more voice opens an orange with his
Fingers and the split rind fills the room. Can I get some? Yes
He divides precisely, thin fingers. For once, there’s enough. We go back
To the map. It doesn’t make sense about space,
Another says. Why if space is black is the sky blue. Is the sky even real?
He asks. What makes a sky a sky? Another voice: Land has borders but do
Sky and sea have borders? Does blue mean
Borderless? Others shake their head, No, while one says, What if we lived without
Borders? No we can’t do that, says another. There would be
Too much fighting. But maybe if nobody knew who to fight we’d be forced
To get along. I like knowing where I belong, says another. I belong
In my home. I belong with who I love and who loves me. Another: The
Whole world will not love you. Another, Haters gonna hate. The Gulf of Mexico
Sits bright and divided. I think about the dead
Buried beneath, ghosts wandering plains, etched into the ridges and valleys
And oblivious blue of the sea. No map of the earth
Includes stars. This seems like an oversight. I am too quiet:
The boy with a crush looks at me, long and questioning. He says nothing:
I say, this is what we do, as humans, now. This is our
Way.

BIO: Christina is a poet and educator from NYC and has an MFA from Brooklyn College.

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