144.2: Marci Vogel:: The Mapmaker Is Revealed to Be a Woman & Ladder of Angels Descends North of LAX 144

Marci Vogel writes poems that explore space. They explore the space of the page, expanding out to the far reaches of the (here, digital) page. And they explore the space that Vogel herself inhabits: Los Angeles. In the first poem, Vogel places us with a mapmaker "navigating the sad," whose maps turn out to look remarkably like poems: "She had a way of moving across the page." The poem becomes map becomes poem, and in that traversing of forms "whole constellations" can be drawn "out of voice & air." In "Ladder of Angels Descends North of LAX," Vogel takes us to a favorite lookout point from where an overwhelming swath of Los Angeles can be witnessed "stretched out like a bowling alley in some summer blockbuster movie." Though surrounded entirely by the city's cement sprawl, in turning her place into the form of a poem, Vogel finds a transcendent space "[h]alfway between urban and heaven" that is more commonly expected in nature poetry. But these poems show that the process of making the poem creates this, not the location chosen. Or, as Vogel stated about these poems: "Close eyes, pick a spot––any spot––start here." Andrew Wessels

The Mapmaker Is Revealed to Be a Woman

We were navigating the sad, pulling branches off trees with chainsaws

& bulldozing trunks. Startled birds

did not know where to go in the chaos.

Would you be able to survive in the wilderness, have the capacity

to banish what haunts? She had a way of

moving across a page. To describe

her as a puzzle maker wouldn’t do it justice. Everyone thought

she was a great constructor, her diagrams wide open, but she was

discontented. I’ve been so general, she complained. I long for

detail & am ashamed of my ambition
. And if she had you

on her knee, it was fascinating the way she seemed to

draw whole constellations out of voice & air. She conjured up a cake once,

poppy seed lemon, its circular shape

spiraling the sun. Somewhere in a northern port city, children

devoured mangoes inside the hull of a ship, & those of us

still on earth pointed from our huts

to her floating wicker basket & thought

surely she would fall out of the sky.

Ladder of Angels Descends North of LAX

First there was the lopping off the top, the trucks, the human rearranging of earth, but
Before that, there was the rising up of erosion and faults. Now there are steps
Some of us climb. Some take the path, feet pressing into dust, past the eye of the needlegrass,
Sweet licorice, feathered wild. Poppy circles, sea lavender bleached to white.
Along the way up, a wet trail of memory, striped spiral of snail toward the center, the city
Receding, turn to see the Wilshire Corridor from the last Century Towers to the
Federal Building, stretched out like a bowling alley in some summer blockbuster movie,
Godzilla stepping west to the ocean away from the Hollywood sign nestled in its
Hill, away from the studios where they film versions of real, click the heels of your
Ruby slippers and repeat: There’s no place like home. We wind the path or walk
The steps like Russian nomads, rising up, rising down, the traffic on the street like waves
Approaching and breaking into a woman’s voice on a cell, a man striking a
Gamelan, filling hollow notes with sound. Someone says our bodies reflect our listening,
And I wonder who else hears our souls whispering as they hover six inches over
Our heads. The body will not always be beautiful, but it will always be blessed. Slow
Drops fall on the observation deck encircled by ocean that used to be clouds, our
Collective breath filling the basin of where ancient fish used to swim. You can see their
Vertebrae sometimes in the thin lines of cirrus sky or when the ground firms after
Rain, the steep rise of spine curving us to a choice of road or overlook, and what kind of
Choice is that? Halfway between urban and heaven, inner gardens sandblasted
Golden, a woman who has been crying looks up at the exact moment someone else feels
Breath animate the body, looks up to see her face, all our radiant faces, holy,
Holy, holy.