Colleen Coyne



Throughout the country we map our tracks. Unpin our maps.

Explain chorometry on the side of the road to anyone who'll stop and listen.

We hitchhike and thumb rides, show a little leg and swap some goods.

Pull postcards from your pocket, borrow my pen.

Find the most fascinating geography on stamp-backs.

Roll our tongues.

Sunk in the ditch, shaded by the grain growing higher than our heads.

If it were snowing, we'd be underground.

But it is not snowing, and the steam rises from the maize:
a pot of cobs cooking on a sweaty stove.

Blaze fields to stop them from crowding.

Then caress a handful of earth and ascertain its potential for growth.

Like grabbing the flesh piled on a woman's hip. If she's plump enough
for bearing.

Leave behind a bruise shaped like a coiled hose. Red ring.

Then there's horned cattle thrusting, pushing past the makeshift fence.

Brambles sticky and swelling with stick-burrs.

A trail of collapsed, concave gourds.

Controlled burn, hot cloud, heat roll.

Something's got to die. Something's going to fold.


Sand-cake, unpolished stone, geode.

Call it a mountain if it makes you feel better. It's a hill where I'm from.

Whose bet is on rain? Lightning sets us back.

Buried cairn, mismarked trailhead.

Bare your hand. Braid of clover. Star-charted sicomac.

Know your instruments by rote.

Reveal yourself: cloud-dial, compass rose.

Wash over wash over wash over the waves.

Rename the nooks that hold the oldest dried leaves.

The oldest notes of dust off our faces.

Breath in a breathless place, air a plastic sheet, film over the retina.

Rope and filigree fleck of birds, their wing pockets unloading feathers.

Out here are bluffs that raise the alarm and send engines screaming                              
past oversized garage doors.

I'll see your sun and raise you a burn.

Let's trip down stairs that lead to nowhere.

Exit after exit, hill after hill, navigate by grasses in the handbook.

Well, your feathers are flotsam now.

The last thing one should do is die.

Has anyone forgiven you yet?

How many others there have been.







The OED's entry for "chorometry" ("the art of surveying a country") is surprisingly spare: a single reference to a technological dictionary from 1823. This piece imagines some of the language that might fill out an updated definition.