AFTER READING ÁLVAR NÚÑEZ CABEZA DE VACA's NARRATIVE OF THE NARVÁEZ EXPEDITION
I believe the arrows, incense, bones, blood. That the weather killed
more Spaniards than the arrows could find. The four men considered God,
and what the King might say if they were ever found alive. Has he lost
his other eye and In God’s name how. What ship would he send for them.
Its cannons tilting towards the gun port Windows. Or if their bodies were sewn
into canvas and piled on the quarterdeck. De Vaca, Castillo, Dorantes,
Estevanico. And then I think of how they continued to get by with their bodies.
Their gesturing for corn, husked ear gilded. Stones and dandelions in the field
have their virtues. I believe they ate the horses. What I don’t know is how
repeating ave maria ave maria ave made them curers, how the stitches on
the wounded disappeared with flourishes of smoke. All he had was clothing,
and then not even that. How did de Vaca remember the villages? Cuayos, Avavares,
Charruco, Mendica. Before explorer was the new conqueror. Before there were
shiploads more slaves than Estevanico. More than the Indian women traded
to enemies as wives. Before there was me believing the arrows, the hiss I want
them to have made as they broke through the clearings between the trees.
PARABLE OF THE NOMADS
But what of the smoke? the branches? the sparrow says.
Go ahead, the chipmunk replies.
As far as the sparrow can see
the brambles of almost-spring are
crowded by fog. Which is to see not far.
Move with care, calls back the chipmunk.
Enough to see ahead and too fast to look back.
Already, from the ground.
Not yet, from the air.
As far as I can tell the two are not saying exactly this.
Might have no way of saying such things.
Just another parable.
The neighborhood animals.
What I’ve just made them say.
They should tell it to me good,
the two of them together,
mouthing, these are your feet, this is the ground,
what you hear is the two of them meeting.
ABOUT THE POET POET BIO
Lauren Mallett’s poems appear in RHINO Poetry, Smartish Pace, Barrow Street, Sou'wester, Passages North, and other journals. She lives and teaches in Indiana. Read more at LaurenMallett.com.
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