The Library of Maps, #36
(for Angela Holm and Gillian Sneed)

Over time,
The librarians became used to
The silent, still presence of the Sleepers.

They slept in the basement of the Library,
On two silver beds
Under coverlets of yellow velvet,
And one of the duties of any Chief Librarian
Was to see to their well-being.

Along the main basement wall,
Beneath a small window,
Was a sheet of strange glimmering metal,
And each morning,
When the Chief Librarian
Came to check on her charges,
She would find new markings on this:
Usually white and red lines,
Which, finally,
Became so overlaid
That the Map appeared like a spider’s web
Of faint thin threads.

Who had been brought in
To study these strange markings,
Had proclaimed
That they must be charts
Of the Sleepers’ journeys—
But could speculate no further.

One dawn,
The Chief Librarian walked down to the basement
Only to find that the Map
And the Sleepers had disappeared

And that the rising sun
Was ablaze with white and red rays.

She gasped,
As did the Old Astronomer in his observatory,
Realizing that the Sleepers’ Map,
With its myriad white and red lines,
Was just like the one
They had created from two separate dreams—
of a city of marble and water,
and another of fire.

Both were terrified
By the sight of this transfigured sun,
And what it meant.

by Moira Roth
Written 9/06/02, revised 4/07/03