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James Cihlar

Map of the Stars

No Man of Her Own

Map of the Stars

A map should be a reason. Like a transcript
of an argument, there should be some logic to it,
some explanation as to why the hills abut the valley,

the young forget the old. I was never good at thinking
my way into the future, so let’s houseclean the past
instead. For $2.00 you get a map of the stars’ homes.

Trace the coordinates from the index, A to M horizontally,
1 to 8 vertically, and you can put your finger on me.
So many things I wanted to do, and now there’s time.

Sometimes I watch myself on television,
the Late, Late Show, but they’ve cut my movies
all to bits, so they don’t make sense anymore.

In The Other Love they chopped the end off,
I give a deathbed speech then break to a commercial,
never to come back, making me look like I am crazy,

always dying, never dead. The map uses asterisks
to denote the former homes of stars—
here’s where Judy Garland used to live,

here’s where Carole Lombard used to live. The message
of the map is: death is a metaphor, the image lives on.
Our decisions are directions, an algorithm of identities:

here is your face lit from below by the dashboard,
here is your face broken by the arrows of an iron fence.
We all become our own audience at the end.

So when I opened the front door to get the newspaper
and my stalker jumped out, I’m here, I love you, baby,
I didn’t waste any time bringing him up on charges.

The judge sent him to Atascadero State Hospital
but before he could be designated as a sex offender
he went to trial and served as his own lawyer.

I took the stand and testified, but the jury ruled against me.
Afterward, he kept on stalking me. I found him sleeping
in my garden. I caught him cutting through my screen door.

I moved to a different house just to get away.
The movie star who played tough broads and
wisecracking dames with a chip on her shoulder

was as weak as anyone in the audience.
The map should tell us: the shock is not in knowing
what we’ve lost, but in realizing what we never had at all.

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No Man of Her Own

Null is both none and all,
the snake eating its tail.

No man may be every man,
or at least any man,

let’s say, the brother of the dead.
Dumped by her cheating boyfriend,

a pregnant woman takes a train
to nowhere, which, again,

is everywhere, or anywhere,
looping in a circle or sphere

into infinity. After a crash
we all become someone else

anyway, so why not make the most
of it? The world is the cast.

She takes the place of a dead lady
and goes home to her family.

Is it wrong to fall in love
with the brother?

Too old to play this part,
she looks for something lost.

Even if she found it now,
what we know

and can remember is the feeling
of being lost, of missing

something, so that even
after it’s found, we keep looking.

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James Cihlar is the author of the poetry books Rancho Nostalgia, Undoing, A Conversation with My Imaginary Daughter, and Metaphysical Bailout. His writing has appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Threepenny Review, Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, and Lambda Literary Review. His website is

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