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READING THE MAPS AN ACADEMIC EXERCISE
All grid co-ordinates on this sheet are in terms of
false origins
Today when I was leaving you were gone
to the Library, hunting. So I couldn’t say
what I wanted to say. No matter.
At nine I phoned about the mice and rats
which infest us, and departmental cats.
Are they procurable or not? No matter.
On the wall in front of my table are four
map sheets of Hokianga. One weakly faded,
the main part of a research scheme gone
mainly own the drain. Even when bought
it did not tell the truth (if truth I sought)
about that district. Some roads were gone
already, some were petered out to tracks,
some only projected. I quibble. It was truth
I pressed after to the blazing four
dusty points of the local compass, ground
by ground hunting for Mahimai and found
how legend bred him still, not one but four,
five or more versions of his Life and Times
in their ways different but yet held true for some
around those parts. They’ve not roads, mere tracks
in scrub or scruffy bush, beaten, halfway lost,
uncertain where they go, or stay. What cost
to follow them? What gains? Tracks are just tracks.
Or legends of them, getting nowhere much;
otherwise, fictions of any parish’s mild dreams
mounted towards a future where times
would not work out of joint. Those sad dreams ailed
materially, the vision in them failed,
Sailed off like so much junk caught up in Time’s
hard-driving westerlies or blustering tides,
dumped among mangroves, slumped like driftwood on water
frontages. “The tourist will find much
To interest him, from …” From here to there,
hunting or haunted. Finding, found out where
roads disappear or don’t amount to much.
Like schemes which I may think of, truth to tell.
No matter – no, that isn’t true. Dusty, bitter
our ways work out, crudely move like tides,
nonetheless turn; comes turnabout in flow
and ebb, they matter. Down at the Head glow
finely the dunes. Promise still rides the tides.
                                   *
TO GIVE GRID REFERENCES ON THIS SHEET
                                   [SCAN]
Now I know where I stand, where I stood.
Within limits. All grid coordinates on this sheet are
true only in terms of false origin.
                                   *
Leave the highway just past a store
almost opposite this shortcut through the gorge.
You want to bear west beyond the store,
back of the district high school. As you go
you raise an abandoned church (which is here)
with a small marae. Shortly, the river.
Follow its bank for a bit, until
a farmer’s yard, between the cowbail and pigpens.
So drive slowly. You’ll need to.
The map says the road ends there. Not true.
You are now right under a stone face.
See the quarry sign? Drive
into the quarry, keeping to the hill side
(because of a fall on the other hand to the river).
You skirt a shoulder. Look for an unformed road
lifting suddenly, steep. But get over the crest,
you’re on top of packed sand.
Carry on to the Head. You cross
the old tramway which used to go up to
the Harbour, remains of the one time main road
to gumfields (south of the river and this next
river) out from the edge of the Forest. It went on
down the coast, then climbed inland on the line
Of a Maori trail. Of course, the map doesn’t
say anything about that. Maps can
tell you about what is supposedly present.
They know little about what’s past and only
so much about outcomes. They work within
tacit limits. They’re not good at predicting.
If everything is anywhere in flux
Perhaps we may not read the same map twice.
                                   *
A DEFENCE OF RYME
Nor must we thinke, viewing the superficiall figure of a
region in a Mappe that wee know strait the fashion and
place as it is. Or reading an Historie (which is but a Mappe
of men, and dooth no otherwise acquaint us with the true
Substance of Circumstances, than a superficiall Card dooth
the Seaman with a Coast neuer seene, which alwayes
prooues other to the eye than the imagaination forecast it)
that presently wee know all the world, and can distinctly
iudge of times, men and manners, iust as they were.
                                                                       Samuel Daniel
                                    *
THE BOOK OF THE ROAD
Out on A 61 for Ripon
Left at Ripley on B 6165
    to Patley Bridge
Patley Bridge through Grassington
    on B 6265, to connect
B 6160, through Kettlewell, Starbotton
    and Buckden
Turn left at Buckden and follow
    Lanstrothdale Chase to Hawes
    (not numbered)
Hawes-Bainbridge on A 684, cross to
    Askrigg and on (no number) to
    Castle Bolton
Have lunch there?
Castle Bolton, over Redmire Moor to Reeth
Reeth into Arkengarthdale
Turn right beyond Langthwaite over
    Scargill High Moor to meet A 66
Right again to B 6277, there left to
    Barnard Castle
Allow time to see castle, medieval bridge and
    inn where Dickens wrote Nicholas Nickleby
    (so the Treasures book says) and esp.
    Bowes Museum (if open??)
From Barnard Castle backtrack on B 6277
Watch for turn off (unnumbered) to
    Egglestone Abbey
(Have tea there or in town?)
Then follow River Tees to get back to
    A 66 for Greta Bridge (isn’t that Dotheboys
    Hall?)
Carry on A66 to Scotch Corner, down A 1
to turn off on A 59 through Knaresborough
NOTE: Roman road beyond Oughtershaw on way
              to Hawes and site of fort at Bainbridge
              From Greta Bridge A 66 follows a Roman
              road (no name)
                                    *
We may not read the same map twice,
especially where sands are on the move.
I speak loosely because thinking
not of a map’s ineptitude but of
some shiftless nature which is prior.
Maps merely feign to represent the case.
Shiftless? A shifty case, more like,
unsure in its election as well as
in its origin, oin its ground
of being as well as in its becoming –
neither works any way too well
for this instance. Are we not assuming
that what one has here to purport
to use as an example will survive
scrutiny? Somehow, has survived?
You follow me: I talk of what we have
and have not, of a sandhill lake
which comes and goes. Or maybe, came and went
since when I was last probing there
forestry men and engineers intent
on reform were then debating
how best to right an aberrant nature.
Their maps could not properly cope
with it. It was offence to natural
justice, natural right, and law.
It came and went. Worse, it was essential
when not existent. Boundaries
tentatively it had, often flouted.
It had? Check my legal fiction.
Rather, they had. Sometimes three lakes flaunted
themselves, sometimes two, or only
one, or none. Not only sands were on the move,
the lake dissolved, moved, reappeared,
will dwindle, again quicken. In remove
a presence, in presence a fact
substantial, insubstantial form
no less? This play with arid words,
dry as lake beds where cloudy midges swarm
until extinguished, the dunes made
to conform to rational order and
rabid, but useful, their surgent pines
established turn to increase wayward sand.
Something we know lost, gained by that.
Then how, best right aberrant nature?
Terms of reference not precise,
you guess, we may not read the same map twice.
                                   *
REFERENCE
On the sheet in front of me on the wall
two sections of REFERENCE
The section on the left has
[SCAN]
with some other things about Main Electric Transmission lines,
Distribution lines, Conventional spacing, Wooden poles and Actual
positions
                                                                 Pylons No
I am leaving out all signs for them, you understand? Also,
anything to do with telephones, tramways and the distinctions of
Principal from Smaller stations.
The section on the right has
Keys to bush, trees, plantations, scrub, scattered scrub, hedge
or short row of trees, fence (prominent), swamp, mangrove, drain,
sand, shingle, cliffs & terraces, stop bank, rocks, building,
church, cemetery, windmill, radio mast, additional clues for
trigonometrical stations with permanent signals, spot heights in
feet above mean sea level, sketch contours at 100´ intervals, and
bits about post and telegraph services. Outside the limits of the
code are two other notes, how to recognise a pa, and rock
outcrops with large boulders.
Given all that you should be able to operate
Within or without prescribed or designated limits.
You may yet have to go to the wall.
How was I ever able to find my way there?
                                    *
HOW TO GET BACK BY MAGNETIC BEARINGS
          True North, now, that is one thing.
          This another, how to get back
          (whenever that was magnetically drawn
          to harbour. Instruct me, all I ask,
          instruct me how – this plus, or lack
          as minus, evidently apply — to unmask
          a not altogether dissembling
          map? True, is true of false origin.
          TO CONVERT A                               TO CONVERT A
MAGNETIC BEARING                         GRID BEARING TO A
TO A GRID BEARING                           MAGNETIC BEARING
     ADD G–M ANGLE                            SUBTRACT G–M ANGLE
                                    TO OBTAIN G–M ANGLE
                                add the Annual Magnetic Change
                                multiplied by the number of years
                             since 1965 to the G–M angle for 1965
                                   1° = 60'
                                   Annual Magnetic Change + 3´
                                   G–M Angle for 1965 16°30´ for
                                the Central Grid Line of this sheet
You may not read the same map
twice. On such least point we may agree
without implying more. Or may we? Add or subtract,
something’s still to be read as before
contemptuous of cartography
as of art or art’s surrogates, its sniffling poor
relations which I ape, thumb at lip
lacking bearing, puerile seen-through act
so you say. As you say.
                                    *
SYMBOLS
I cannot see our land clearly.
It comes and goes because covered with symbols.
Isn’t this the symptom of a psychotic state?
Take England now. In England I was given
to hold in my hand a necessary guide to
SYMBOLS USED ON THE MAPS, to hold as I was driven.
‘O take fast hold’ – that's Sidney, in CS 32.
Eleven different sections of symbols on one sheet,
twenty of them in one section. Here’s from
another:
                Castle or house with interesting interior
                Abbey, priory or other ecclesiastical
                     Building (usually in ruins)
                Parish church
                Castle or house in ruins
                Archaeological monument
                Garden (usually attached to private house)
                Botanical gardens
                Zoolological gardens
                 
               but no Interesting church. Interesting churches are
                in Symbols Used on Town Plans, another section.
Another section, of another life.
Here I am told how to find a Frontier post
I shall go down to the river which may be
demented. I shall go on hoping to cross over.
Perhaps this is a frontier. We have crossed
frontiers before this.
Here is a sheet of paper. Write on it for me.
Go on, write on it. Why do you write No.?
What number do you mean?
                                   *
LEGEND
                                    I
this landscape landfall.
                                    II
A map so new you wouldn’t read about
it, a loop road which hadn’t been built
in hill country Tokomaru Bay.
Way forward proved the way back.
Like a one track mind it pressed as far,
died under a mount, a none too significant
mound. So have we all, well truly spent.
Well, there was the mount. On its round
emphatic the bull, who rose to design.
His neck arched, the masculine pouch,
his weapon cooling, out to prove
that way forward is the way back
                                   III
Where maps may need a change in legend for
                                   IV
this masculine landfall/`landscape
and seascape. Together, your un-
certainty in seeing, grit and spray
confronting or bedevilled, those dun
sands drove at berm and cliffs while away
in their distance sea leagues with
the land’s league collogued were one,
classically distant. Could you well say
how far in space or time you were astray
from plainjane rivermouth, that plebeian
rivermouth beyond the quarry,
beyond the mundane?
                                   On the wall
fronting me I pinned, years ago, a wry
black toro from a Spanish bottle
to further esemplastic
legend’s proclivity
for becoming and there would do as well
as anywhere, near Mahimai’s burial
place. As chance worked, it’s not very
far from the beach where (December
’69, was it?) the skyline
crests learned how to break with their severe
old puritan habit, its condign
bearing, stood – preliterate,
hieratic – risen clear
above confusion the young bulls in line,
preternaurally clear. They define
and redefine what you perhaps swear
is land that cannot wear myth’s host
plausibly, an unlikely stock.
Surveyors missed them running out the coast
but legend needs. We are what dreams shock
briefly to become; this you heard
long since. Then where, at cost,
shall we amazed be forced to press the rock
channel deep, final, face him who will lock
and batten on us? Fictive, will most
prove fact? Way forward is way back
baffling to wayward plan or chart,
a maze the end and origin, track
not made good though trick you got by heart
sorely. I speak of the Minotaur
at the heart of us, the black
kruptos , that animates each crafty art?
All pay him tribute, kill him off, and start
to run his course again shiftless, bleak
                                    V
as fallen masculine scape tumbled
Headlong. Sprawls, fold on fold. Heaves,
scarred hide. Promise still rides.
South and east they have fire by night
in their skies. Here, to the north a mast,
a television repeater station catches
signals. What sign/signal/symbol for
the Muse? Perhaps
                                   VI
on a hilltop a crossbred Jersey sire.
His progeny champ below, mouse-coloured
in their rat run. He bellows, hefts clods.
They caper excited, I am shit-scared
clinging then to one strand of No. 8
fencing wire the guard rail of a swing
bridge over a creek. Just discovered
that several planks ahead are missing.
The bulls come gathering either end and
as well as my pack there’s all the camera gear.
He bellows and buttocks. They collect, they dance.
We are offered, in season. In season
not at the dark heart, out in the open
                                   VII
are taken, being promised. As/Was
Mahimai and probably Rutherford
(if that was his name) who disappeared
in a cloud of bullshit, who said he spent
ten years of himself back of Tokomaru.
That was the first season I went looking
for Maihimai and Rutherford, sidetracked
into hunting after graveyards’ wooden
headboards, their iconography lost style.
About them maps are reticent.
I swung between: a family burial ground,
And the Wesleyans’ plot. With those boards
which we cannot read and the grave of
their millenarian teacher, Heke’s tohunga
Papahurihia. The vates? They deny
                                   VIII
but we need more to the legend, and for
                                    *
A QUESTION OF SCALE
To bring it all to scale, the given
   is 1:63360, 1 inch to 1 mile,
     and is outmoded.
That, given. Also false origin
   is given as base from which we work, almost capable
     until outmoded.
To bring it to scale. I was driven
   or drove headlong, taking whatever a telltale dial
     on an outmoded
dashboard said was nearly true of Then
   and There, the literal. Metaphor too, and parable
     long since outmoded.
                                                                       March - April 77
Editor's note
Reading the Maps an Academic Exercise : first published in Islands 24 (1978), 131; also  In Stories About Wooden Keyboards and Selected Poems; KS’ note in Stories reads: ‘Mahimai is John Marmon, also known as Tiaki, the first and most notorious white settler in the Hokianga, who figures in various memoirs including his own. John Rutherford—which is almost certainly not his real name—was the once celebrated tattoed white man whose account of living with Maoris appeared in The New Zealanders (1830). I regard it as the first sustained piece of fiction about this country’; Daniel: Samuel Daniel (1562-1619), English poet and prose writer, author of Defence of Rhyme (1602); sandhill lake: see ‘Tomarata’; Tokomaru Bay: situated on East Coast of North Island, north of Gisborne; minotaur: in Greek myth, a monster, half man and half bull, offspring of Pasiphae and a bull; lived in the labyrinth, slain by Theseus; The Book of the Road>describes a specific journey in Yorkshire undertaken by KS in 1969
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