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Edmonton
September 16, 2019

#YEG: Lisa Martin-Demoor

Getting lost on the Henday is a lot like giving birth.

Illustration Byron Eggenschwiler

I am here, I said out loud, trying not to panic as my second baby began to push his way through me into the world at the Misericordia last August. I am right here. Knees on the bathroom floor, hip pushed against the wall, naked as the day I was born.

All the maps say the same thing – “You are here” – existing, as they do, for moments when we won’t know where that is. Last week, I got lost in Mill Woods. I missed an exit off Calgary Trail, veered right so I wouldn’t end up headed towards the airport, and found myself on the Henday (not a good thing: My mental map excludes the ring road).

I’ve done this before (shouldn’t I have learned?), but found my way back last time without trouble. I don’t know what went wrong this time. I was headed north – or was it west, or south? Why did the signs say 109th, and then 109th again, but sideways?

So it was that, on an ordinary Wednesday, I spent several minutes of my life completely off the map, somewhere I could not now return to if I tried. Where was I? What happens to us when the red dot of the self – the one that, according to legends, should locate us – floats out over the map instead, looking for a “here” to land?

Sometimes we abandon a map, like the time in British Columbia when a GPS told my partner and I the best
way to get to Maple Ridge from Fort Langley was to drive right into the Fraser River. Other times, we have to wrench off a part of ourselves, a bit of memory or experience we sense will never fit with the map we are otherwise successfully drawing of the world.

Who knows why it is sometimes possible to take the pronoun of the self – I – and link it up with its object – here – in some kind of perfect copulative fusion? Is it fluke, or effort, that allows us to pull this off? Mostly, I suspect it’s forgetting about the shape of the thing, the circle of self that signifies us, our position, and not trying, for a time, to make it fit. Letting go, letting that red dot just float away like a helium balloon.

Which brings us back to the moment of birth. No map, nothing for the pain. Just a heat without edges that knows something no map could ever graph, or locate. Nothing I write, either.

Lisa Martin-DeMoor is the author of poetry collection One Crow Sorrow (Brindle & Glass, 2008), which won the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry. She was also a silver medal winner at the National Magazine Awards for her piece “A Container of Light,” which was published in The New Quarterly.

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