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Matthew Flinders - The Map Maker

The Navigator’s Wife

after Ann Flinders (nee Chappelle) circa 1814

Thought she was going with him

that first time, south into sea and storms

but after 13 years only got him back to die

her eyes already blind from weeping

pressing his cold fingers to the first

copy of his ‘Voyages’ - too late

he’d already gone - without her again

uncharted this time, and on a ghost ship

beyond landfall from whose silence

no letters ever get back

threading a needle in freezing winter light

rain bumping on the glass

setting her own sad course into the vast

and lonely ocean of another afternoon.

Jeff Guess page 110

Death of Matthew Flinders

19th July 1814

Even as an eager if a slight young man,

sailing out of the romance

of Defoe's prose in a leaky decayed ship-

he should have seen the death in that.

A kind of pragmatism saved him:

for a time - giving shape to his own life

and the strange island continent

he drew a convoluted line around.

Even the years in a French prison:

sunk into his maps - a life's work,

he kept his spirit sharp

in the notes of a borrowed flute.

But going home sick with scorbutic ulcers

and worse - at 39 looked 70;

sailing in agony into the pages

of his own long illustrated narrative.

Two weeks before he died

asked for a new copy of 'Crusoe'

and in pain and weakness dreamed of

his own great 'South' island and the ship.

Then finally complete - Annette brought

his bound, printed 'voyage' to the bed-

too late. He had already gone - falling

over the edge of all the known world.

Jeff Guess page 126

©Jeff Guess 2017

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