Daniel Tobin

Ode to the Google Maps Man
October 13, 2013 Tobin Daniel

Ode to the Google Maps Man

Gold-suited spaceman, terranaut,

Digital archon ever-descending,

Eyeless, every-eyed,


You carry me with you

Down from your ether-clouded reaches

To wherever I am not,


Sao Paulo or Lordes,

Seething metropolis, graffiti-blazoned

In the high, enduring sun,


The same sun pouring

On the Rue de la Grotte

Where three women are walking


In kerchiefs, and a man

Rides his bike down the serpentine

Hillside street to the hospital.


You, too, appear

With each itinerant click

Like a vision.


That evening in the Marais,

Le Sevigne, the Parc Royale,

I drank and ate and dreamed;


Or west of Clifden,

The Sky Road, the light at tipping point

To here and now and out beyond,


You transport me

There and there again, wingless, winged,

Impossible homunculus,


Cartoon bearing me back

To the forgone neighborhood

Of my youth, the lost


Towns of former lives

Imprinting me again, blurred

Faces beside curbs;


And these un-staged

Crossroads you station me

To browse, an array


Of storyboards, pathways

Of glimpse and glance

Tempting me to choose—


I love your wormhole

Portal that teleports

Though time, trucks, tarmac,


Florentine squares,

Odysseys of islands,

Ramshackle streets


Of Addis or Mumbai,

And you happy enough to be

Here as anywhere,


Fairbanks or Freeport,

Milan, Myanmar, Minsk,

Wellington or Wyandot;


Or floating over it all to scope

The vast empty stretches,

Waste clouds above Chengdu


Terracotta rooftops,

Tent cities, the human hives

Spreading, they look

Bacterial across

Forest and floodplain,

This slow writhe of a river


Idling its way to ocean,

And on His abrupt mount

Cristo Redentor,


His arms outstretched

Above the iniquitous city

Where you touch down


Again now—Icon, Voyeur,

Ever-incipient, Ever-arriving,



You who hail us,

Who harry us, who haunt us,

But cannot heal.

Daniel Tobin is the author of nine books of poems, including From Nothing, winner of the Julia Ward Howe Award,The Stone in the Air, his suite of versions from the German of Paul Celan, and most recently Blood Labors,named one of the Ten Best Books of 2018 by the New York Times. He is also the author of the critical studies Awake in AmericaPassage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, and On Serious Earth, forthcoming in 2019. Tobin has edited The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Light in Hand: Selected Early Poems of Lola RidgePoet’s Work, Poet’s Play: Essays on the Practice and the Art (with Pimone Triplettand To The Many: Collected Early Works of Lola Ridge, which received a Special Commendation from the Poetry Society. His poetry has won the “The Discovery/The Nation Award,” The Robert Penn Warren Award, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize, the Stephen J. Meringoff Award, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among other honors. He teaches at Emerson College in Boston.