WC80 – James White Poetry Prize – Finalist

James Najarian
Finalist for the 2009 White Crane / James White Poetry Prize

Travelogue by James Najarian

Our travel papers are seldom in order.
We lack a visa, or the proper stamps.
More often than not, we're stopped at the border,

Our documents held to the light, just like this.
Our endorsements are in the wrong color ink,
Our signatures void, our persons suspicious.

This isn't the first time we've been refused entry.
You are a country we will never visit.
We view your coast from a deck on the sea,

Or get a hold of photographs, somewhere.
The kind of pictures that reveal nothing –
Cloudy landscapes taken from the air –

They tell us nothing we're not meant to know.
No one responds to calls at the consulate.
There's no national airline or tourist bureau.

You are a nation whose borders are closed:
A tiny state in the hills, like Bhutan.
The ridges and valleys stay unexposed.

Or you are a gap on the map of the world;
Your body, a continent, could be Antartica:
Cool, pale, and barely explored;

It could be perilous – the Khyber Pass,
A place without settlers – the Serengeti,
Or a place found only on a prewar atlas

Where half the globe is either pink or blue
Ubangi-Shari, or Bechuanaland,
Or someplace even harder to get to:

Cathay, Cibola, Lemuria, Mu.

James Najarian teaches nineteenth-century poetry at Boston College.  He is the author of the critical work Victorian Keats: Masculinity, Sexuality, and Desire published in 2002 by Palgrave Macmillan.  He lives in the Brighton section of Boston.

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