A Short History of Journey

The fault, dear Arcturus, is not in your star.
I’m afraid we misread the swells
like explorers mistaking one continent for another.

“Columbus stretched out Asia eastward until Japan almost kissed the Azores.”1
“The Chinese treasure fleet had been mothballed long before Magellan set to sea.”2

In other words, they were imprecise, and they perished.

(Behold the flight of birds on rarefied air,
from breeding ground to wintering ground.
Behold intention, and its kin, precision.)

Be that as it may, we were always meant for motion.

See how the Silk Road was paved with horses’ bones.
And more than smuggled silkworm, it brought sugar, silver,
paper—utter world changer.

See how the Spice Trade flourished,
shoring up an empire, its galleons—implacable bearers of a slave
trade from Manila to Acapulco.

The world got its cinnamon, its cocoa, its cassia and cardamom,
its lapis lazuli, and its Balas Ruby—ancient and sapphire-veined.
We got wanderlust.

And the bravest of us looked up and remembered everything—
the fixed star, the dippers, the king, the queen, the bear-keeper—
rubescent and fourth brightest in all the night sky, dearest,

remembered also the cardinal of old fields and every roadside—
brilliantly blue and sometimes true—in the same night sky,
roaming its way home.

1Morison, Samuel Eliot. Admiral of the Ocean Sea. The American Past, 1942. Cited in IEEE Spectrum, 2012.

2 Bergreen, Laurence. Over the Edge of the World. MJF Books, 2015. Cited in CNN, 2003.

Copyright © 2020 by Aileen Cassinetto. Originally published in Poem of the Day by San Francisco Public Library, May 16, 2020.