Map Home

Map Home

by David Havird

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In the poem that opens this career-spanning odyssey, a blind weaver, who is at once a grandmotherly Penelope and a Homeric bard, “maps you home”—home finally, as the concluding poem reveals, to the Swamp Fox-haunted lowlands of Havird’s native South. Along the way, which threads through Hardy’s Wessex, the Greece of Homer and Seferis,

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In the poem that opens this career-spanning odyssey, a blind weaver, who is at once a grandmotherly Penelope and a Homeric bard, “maps you home”—home finally, as the concluding poem reveals, to the Swamp Fox-haunted lowlands of Havird’s native South. Along the way, which threads through Hardy’s Wessex, the Greece of Homer and Seferis, and Jack London’s Valley of the Moon, we take our bearings in “elliptical” terrain, as Rosanna Warren describes the typical setting—landscapes through whose gaps emerge the ghosts of memory and myth to engage the living in scenes of infinite moment. 

In Map Home, as in Havird’s award-winning chapbook, Penelope’s Design—but amply here—“the memories of ‘a dream-disheveled child’ in the Deep South unfold,” as Eleanor Wilner observes, “into the meditative travels of the literary man in elegant poems riddled with starlight.”

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Texas Review Press
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First Edition
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5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.30(d)

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Map Home

By David Havird

Texas Review Press

Copyright © 2013 David Havird
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-937875-07-7



    from a photograph by Eudora Welty
    Time has woven a map on her face—
    a spider's odyssey, that web of lines.
    She leans to her loom
    set up on a table there on the porch
    and propped against the flaking clapboard wall.
    She leans, and the wooden arms
    of the rush-bottom rocker hug;
    the rinsed-thin dress, its washed-out
    pattern of flowers, strains to contain her.
    The weaver is feeling her way.
    Is it the texture that tells,
    or does the intimate heat
    of each strip of fabric hint of its hue?
    Grandmotherly stout, Penelope weaves
    a garment of going, a shroud
    to be unlaced when no one is looking. No,
    she's improvising with rags
    a web of welcome to feet
    that will someday or not enter at sundown,
    the clodhoppers chucked on the porch, or step
    at sunup from under the covers,
    the bricks at the foot of the bed
    hearth-hot at bedtime, stone cold
    when winter has bit through the floorboards.
    From random scraps she weaves
    her narrative by touch:
    counts and you plod, who follow the south end
    of a northbound mule, and the hard
    clay of the furrows reddens your brogans; or hums
    and you, within the clatter of boxcars, weave
    a tune through the iron drone of the line.
    Feeling her way, this blind bard maps you home.


    On dry October's crust
    leaves blown like spume
    from waterfalls of oaks—
    now only one thing bloomed
    and it was rust.
    A field day for the wasps that swarmed
    outside the blinds
    while crosswinds shook
    the season's skeletal red brick.
    One afternoon
    two dozen of their army stormed
    a broken fascia. That platoon
    held rank until
    the House & Garden spray
    touched nerves—the unit lay
    defiled upon a windowsill.
    As autumn droned,
    only a straggle of survivors
    fluttered among the host
    of slaughtered lovers.
    Now winter grinds
    the wasps, old lovers, past
    vexations of
    a morning-after's battlefield of love.
    Stained bedsheets, pubic strands askew,
    sloughed from the tangled web
    of their geometry,
    love's victims stricken in lust's after-dew—
    all vanish to neutrality,
    this season's attitude.
    The crosswinds ebb.
    Then like a paralyzing fungus, frost.
    No insects in the rafters. Pilots steer
    through other twilights, east
    along this latitude.
    Entranced, a virgin peers
    from her rich bed of straw.
    A year recycles the old law—
    like thorns of rust,
    wasps wreathe her infant's head.


    The theme was a hand-me-down, but Orpheus
    embroidered it, and the lines became immortal.
    (His odes are long since lost.) Eurydice,
    tricked out in their unbreathing gold
    and mauve, became the talk of the season. Birdsong
    feathered the air, so muffled even her murmurs,
    what could a woman do but show reserve
    and look divine? A bride that blushed unseen
    amid the iridescent, pearled brocade.
    The dead underfoot were aroused. The stalks of their sighs
    petaled the aisle with ash. Or else had dusk dispatched from the many mouths in noon's red clay
    a cohort of lengthening shadows? These were snakes
    stiffening their spines, aiming to stand
    erect beside the bride.... O not divine!
    A mortal of no means, a daughter boasting
    no trousseau, in Death's sheer weave she leans,
    absorbed if not entranced: No man could love
    a woman more than I love you
—the theme,
    though lusterless itself, whips through a maze
    of variations, antistrophes of pearl.
    She pictures, as with wary fingertips,
    the suffocating gown's baroque brocade.
    So trailing in her shift of floating ash
    and scarf of soot, she limps.... Upon a ledge
    of anthracite, her right leg crossing her left,
    she fingers the lips of her wound. Its halting speech
    told of another's claim on her few words,
    and Orpheus—could he have got it right?
    tilted his head—a sunbeam mussed his hair—
    and spun around, and Eurydice shrank from his glare.


    The wealth of gold and marble
    ambushed us: the coffered ceiling of gold,
    the rows of Athenian columns flanking the nave,
    mosaics depicting to uplifted eyes
    what story our eyes failed to discern,
    for with vespers commencing, priests were processing,
    and now it was music of organ and choir,
    of even the red-skulled bishop intoning that rapt us
    until the words, like seaborne Peter's doubt,
    turned ether back into air and, breathing, we drowned
    into our old sightseeing selves
    whose object had been from the start
    the Colosseum, of course.
    By now the champion cyclist,
    the Giro d'Italia run, had posed with his trophy
    and gone. Where there had been a mob
    there were Sunday amblers. With them we drifted
    up the Palatine Hill, down alongside the Forum,
    then back past other ditches
    where maybe a column stood and sometimes a pair
    with maybe a lintel. High up a couple was posing,
    out on a balcony off to the side of a loggia:
    framed by the casa's one window,
    under the pointed arch,
    he in a uniform, blue, with silver fringing his shoulders,
    and she, bare-shouldered, in billowing sea-foam
    as if, the flesh of empire grass
    (its gutted skeleton marble),
    Mars and Venus had taken immaculate form
    as the couple whose wedding it was.
    Our feet, when they carried us back in the morning—
    Santa Maria, they were the feet of pilgrims.
    We stood in the chapel beneath the basilica's altar
    in wedlock transfixed as if by an arrow,
    in fact by wooden boards:
    within a tureen of sorts of gold and glass,
    the wood of a manger.
    As pilgrims had, if never those three kings,
    for 1500 footsore years, so we
    feasted our eyes? We fed the manger our gaze
    as if to engender our souls. On top of the shrine
    a child of gold lolled on a blanket of gold,
    under it straw, a bed of gold that looked scratchy:
    the infant Christ, his weight on an elbow,
    the free arm gesturing Godward
    or maybe, with two fingers raised, conferring a blessing.
    I picture him not as Cupid exactly
    but like him twiddling an arrow
    as if he has caught the shaft of a gaze
    that like a spear had aimed to wound.
    Santa Maria Maggiore


    "Whenever I pass a field of artichokes,
    I picture Venus beneath it." For me it's fields
    of tobacco and Marilyn Monroe,
    her nude body discovered ... Nude?
    Naked, my parents explained. In bed
    naked? I was bewildered. My dad at the wheel
    of our two-tone green '58 Impala,
    my parents and I on our way to Ocean Drive
    where Grandmother Rainwater kept a house ... Nearby,
    a beach-front novelty store. I bought a toy cigar,
    teased out wads of confetti, and stuffed it with leaves
    filched from a warehouse en route. (Tobacco auctions
    were something to see.) The tip alight with red glitter,
    I'd smoke that enormous cigar and savor the secret.
    Summers running together, I married a woman
    whose family farmed tobacco ... who breathed the fields
    distilled, the sweated heat of oven-tight barns,
    with Mr. Phil inspecting the wooden barns
    where leaves, tied up in hands and hanging from sticks,
    turned yellow. In Martha Ingram's account
    a peasant unearths with his plow a Venus with arms
    and legs and a head "mindless" and "lovely." Posed
    on a shelf at the novelty store, inflatable dolls
    with corn-silk hair. The bathing suit was red.
    Squeeze the tummy and naked breasts pop out.
    Plastic telescopes, cherry and lemon and grape,
    Popsicle colors—with these I spied on women
    captured without any clothes. The idol intact.
    I picture my raven-haired mother in deeper
    than ever, her latex bathing cap a skull.
    She brought it up with her feet, a rose-lipped shell
    that came to rest—the conch so stank up the car—
    in spikes of weed along the highway home.
    Martha's Italian farmer replanted his Venus.
    If word got out, they'd designate his fields
    a "site." Barely awake, rousted from bed
    at 5 for the drive to the beach, I follow
    a dark-haired girl—in 1962
    we both turn 9—down rows of tobacco—
    the top leaves only remain on the plants—
    traipsing beside her grandpa. They halt at the pack house.
    The leaves are loose now and lying in heaps on burlap.
    The ravishing smell of cured tobacco,
    the ghost of green fields, gilds the August heat.
    for Elizabeth Spencer


    I think, How do I feel knowing she's dead?
    My habit, which my thirty years have fed
    (As heartbeats have the body's—to survive
    Still more), is still to feel that she's alive.
    Things known by heart touch their way into bone.
    My mother felt the same about her own,
    Who died last year in winter, none so raw
    On record. Seasons passed. A weekend saw
    My parents in the mountains, as one did
    Unfailingly in autumn, when leaves hid
    In colors of desire (which I would read
    As passion to hold fast) the heartless need
    Of letting go. There they heard orchards drone
    With wasps, daring tourists to pick their own
    Apples. Alive, she'd still have gotten none,
    Grandmother toothless in her eighties. Done
    With picking, though, and with enough to dole
    Out winter long to every living soul,
    Her eldest daughter sighed, "Won't it surprise
    Mother we picked all these!" Yet her demise—
    Why, apples had been ripe since that first fall
    With knowledge of it, as between heartbeats
    There is a silence that repeats,
    Silence is all, is all.


    At Connemara a trail
    led from the house to the barn
    (Carl Sandburg's wife had bred
    goats that won blue ribbons),
    tripped alongside hedges
    and where it outpaced them: wind.
    A champion herd, ice-horned.
    The front had begun as a blustery horde
    of country cousins at Biltmore House. The tour
    at an end, "I like this part"—
    servants' quarters, kitchen and laundry,
    the basement—"best,"
    one elderly woman drawled to another. "You would,"
    I thought. Though truth be told,
    me too. The people, yes,
    the people
. A Greyhound full.
    Reagan / President / Reagan,
    their campaign buttons read, and give 'em Helms
    Jesse, that is, the state's race-baiting senator
    up for reelection. Jostled,
    I saw myself, a boy, beside the carport,
    three neighborhood kids accosting me
    there on the flagstone walkway beside the white
    camellias. "Nigger-lover," one of them sneered,
    the flat of his hand slamming the wind from my chest.
    It got out how that we were for LBJ?
    Night finds us knotted together, the thermostat not
    to be found, my wife and me and my father.
    When autumn reddened the Blue Ridge,
    this drive was an annual thing
    for him and my mother. We've missed the color, he grouses.
    The friends of my parents whose holiday cabin this is—
    they lent me when I was a kid
    LPs of Sandburg reading. Picture
    the boy on his back, lights off in the foyer,
    in front of the Magnavox. Here
    on the cover of Honey and Salt,
    the white-maned poet has bundled himself in a scarf.
    The dry leaves trampled, the herd,
    butting the tree trunks, crashes with one held bleat
    through the branches—where
    among the goats are the sheep? And if, through the fog
    of our exhalations, a flurry of cold
    reaches my face, I hold my breath—
    a dream-disheveled child
    afraid that if he lets it out,
    his mother's fingers, fussing now with his hair,
    will whisk it away.
    Flat Rock / Asheville / Arden, North Carolina


    The master bedroom is a paneled loft.
    Leap out of bed and bang your head;
    raise yet another knot on its blond ceiling.
    Respectful of my crown, I bow my head.
    The room misreads my gesture as a show
    of reverence for it, makes up the bed
    into an altar where two lovers died
    to live again come Judgment Day. Or spring.
    Our bodies rose ... but left our souls behind?
    It looks as if we've climbed in our thick skin
    out of our souls as ghosts in movies step
    with legs of mist from bodies, salt-sown wounds,
    that sweated out their death, like love, in bed.
    Like two ice-sculpted effigies that wear
    the shimmering, transparent skin of thaw,
    they lie in bed as if upon our tomb.
    Beneath the low sky's neolithic gray
    that sprains the rooftree of this rented house,
    they lie in wait to catch us in the act
    of life, these intimations of our death
    in Jutland, thickening
    with color, fleshing-out until the dawn
    of Doomsday or another glacial spring
    casts its cold eye upon us and we find
    we've then acquired such clarity of sight
    that I can see through her and she through me,
    while they appear as if they've yet to spend
    the pulse that made us flush and kept us warm.


Excerpted from Map Home by David Havird. Copyright © 2013 David Havird. Excerpted by permission of Texas Review Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

David Havird grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, and studied at the University of South Carolina under James Dickey.  He completed his graduate studies at the University of Virginia with a doctoral dissertation on Thomas Hardy.  While not a prolific poet, he has published for many years in major journals, having broken into print in 1975 with a poem in The New Yorker.  His collection of fourteen poems, Penelope’s Design (2010), won the 2009 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prize.  He lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he teaches at Centenary College.

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