Drawing up the Borders

Yes, it can be a tedious job at times:
frustrating and repetitive, especially
all the erasing and redrawing
when some querulous country muscles its way in.

But I like to take an interest
in the politics of each line I draw,
the arguments, or secret deals, or plain brute force
that lie behind each change of colour on the map.

And I have to say this: I'll never be out of work.
When I've finished the country borders,
there are always plenty of counties,
cantons and Parish Councils queuing up,

neighbours wanting a line to mark
the place where the garden fence should go,
or clerks needing an urgent definition
of the precise division of office desk space.

I like to catch them young. If I can sell
a nice white line down the middle of the playroom floor
it may not pay much, but I'll know
I've made two customers for life.

© Peter Howard

first published in the LACE Poetry Competition Anthology 1996