Gary Soto

1952 / Fresno, California

The Map

When the sun's whiteness closes around us
Like a noose,

It is noon, and Molina squats
In the uneven shade of an oleander.

He unfolds a map and, with a pencil,
Blackens Panama

Into a bruise;
He dots rain over Bogotá, the city of spiders,

And x's in a mountain range that climbs
Like a thermometer

Above the stone fence
The old never thought to look over.

A fog presses over Lima.
Brazil is untangled of its rivers.

Where there is a smudge,
Snow has stitched its cold into the field.

Where the river Orinoco cuts east,
A new river rises nameless

From the open grasses,
And Molina calls it his place of birth.
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