William D. Waltz

from Ghostlier Demarcations

Although my geography books provided maps in abundance, I felt compelled to make my own. I spent many school nights at my desk, overlooking the B & O railroad tracks, drawing maps of the forty-eight contiguous states. From a yellowed series of books handed down by my brother, I learned the basic geography of each state—their topographies and rivers, their borders, and the crude outlines of their economies. I was as intrigued by the massive barges that moved up and down the Mississippi, shuttling goods between ports, as I was amazed by the sense that everything seemed mysteriously connected. But what interested me most were the blank spots, the wide-open unknowns that lay between towns like Miles City and Baker, Montana, the unpopulated corners of unpopulated states, the emptiness huddled at the foot of a mountain range, the islands of nature scattered across metropolitan seas, the bands of untilled land surrounding the capital, the gray area abutting the industrial zone—anywhere that offered a chance to get lost.