Preface to a Map


This text blesses itself

in eastings and northings

that traverse the circular earth

in straight lines.

And if you get lost

within the confines of this topography,

remember that vertical always comes

before horizontal:

easting precedes northing

in these crosses.


Mark, too, that this flat crease

is inherently incorrect –

whether Mercator, Lambert, or Universal Transverse Mercator.

Flatness cannot grasp the totality of roundness,

and either the equator or poles or nothing

is actually accurate,

and some spot

or every spot

is somehow distorted.


But take heart –

not even the compass really points north,

but rather merely leans

in a northerly direction.



The earth bends a little more in this spot,

where a church grew up from the dirt

so long ago that no one remembers

or remembers who might have remembered.


The local folk don’t forget it, though –

these ruins returning to earth,

where they hang a rosary on the Virgin

and place flowers at her feet

to request some special favor from this sacred soil.

They still bury their dead here, too,

as though ancient ground is more holy.

It is.


And even the chilly mist itself has sprouted from legend

to settle on the grass and tombs and stones

pushing up from the earth

that pulls them back down to the dust.

Little River


Up the Dalley Loop,

off the winding back road past the reservoir,

the Goodell house sits

for what must seem like an eternity to its timber –

the moss covered shingles,

rusted iron stove,

even the fifty year old graffiti

adorning its crumbling walls

as the old artifacts of life wither away.


On the other side of the hill,

through forest that has reclaimed the land

from the pasture and field that once stole from it,

the stone foundation of the Ricker House

sinks back into the earth.

Visitors line these stones with a shrine of relics:

glass shards, metal, pottery,

that they find among the ruins.

The massive granite corners say,

'I am strong.

My sons are strong.'

But no one understands this anymore.

Little River State Park is located in central Vermont and is the site of an early 1800s settlement. By the early 1900s many of the homes were deserted, and practically all were abandoned by the time the Waterbury Dam was constructed in 1934 in response to severe flooding. Part of the settlement now rests under the Waterbury Reservoir, but the remains of some structures, such as foundations, chimneys, and cemeteries, can still be seen within the park. Two of these structures, the Goodell House and the Ricker House, are among the most notable. The Ricker House is now only large blocks of stone, but the Goodell House is still intact.


Christian Reifsteck's poems have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including Bijou Poetry Review, Vantage Point, EverChanging Magazine, and Manifest Magazine. View more of his work at

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