“There he was, gone” by J. R. Carpenter

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“There he was, gone” by J. R. Carpenter.
“There he was, gone” by J. R. Carpenter.

This poem’s paradoxical title is a key to understanding its design and strategies. The subject’s presence and absence from a location is made possible through the passage of time, as the speakers search and imagine his whereabouts. The generated lines are structured to form a dialogue: a call and response that builds and recedes in length and intensity, like tides on the waters depicted in the map. A third or fourth voice (perhaps from the missing one) scrolls in from the background, becoming legible when it reaches enough contrast in the image. The scheduling of texts in this poem enhance the uncertainty of attempting to locate a moving target by keeping readers constantly reassessing what they’re reading.

The gorgeous map provides a sense of place while inviting readers to explore its surfaces.