“The Shell Road Atlas” by Andrew Taylor

Nowhere along here do the maps

offer much more than a hope

we’re heading the right way.

Each page offers a new start

and confirmation of the Irish saying

‘If you want to get there

you shouldn’t be starting from here.’

The place names are printed so small

they’re self-effacing, roads

wander and peter out like creeks

in a drought, mountains

of course are paper flat and the red

hatching of a firing range is mute

but enticing. Cartographers

in some quiet studios have traced

their reveries across these pages

of beautiful artwork, while here

wind blows, birds sing, and oncoming traffic

must know wherever it comes from.


This poem is part of Southerly’s 78.1 Festschrift: David Brooks. You can purchase a copy of Festschrift here and help keep Australian literature alive. 

About the author

Andrew Taylor was born in Victoria in 1940, educated at Melbourne University, and lived for many years in Adelaide. He now teaches at Edith Cowan University in Perth. He is the author of the critical book Reading Australian Poetry (UQP 1987), and the libretti for two operas. Travelling (UQP 1986) was the regional winner of the British Airways Commonwealth Poetry Prize, and Sandstone (UQP 1995) won the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Poetry. Andrew is one of Australia’s most accomplished and anthologised contemporary poets. He has lived and worked at various times in Italy, the USA, England and Germany, where he visits regularly.