Malinche, A.D. 1522

No rain of flowers marked my entry into the world.
I wasn’t born onto a shield or draped
in a robe of feathers. My own mother
sold me in secret & celebrated my funeral
with the substituted corpse of a slave.
I ended up serving the lords of Yucatán,
on the eastern shore.

Four years ago, when Hernán Cortez came back
from setting fire to his ships, slipping
like a thief into camp, I was waiting in
his tent. We understood each other
from the first, before I could speak
one phrase of Castillian. We had
the same hungers.

He is the blonde lightning, I am the thunderhead.
The eagle dives, the jaguar screams — or so
the lying poets like to say. I hear
only the cries of men sliding
in their own gore, moaning for
their mothers. A thousand times
the fate of empires rode on almost nothing
but my supple tongue.

When we fled Tenochtitlan the first time
& our portable bridge failed, the drowned bodies
of soldiers weighed down with plundered gold
filled that last, terrible gap in
the great causeway. Over such fords
have these legions of freed slaves wallowed,
swum, returned.

Freely I chose to serve the foreign occupiers
& their three-faced God Who is Father,
Mirror, Smoke. He bleeds Himself so
the rest of us might be spared, redeems
all captives. For the sake of faith
His double-edged words sever children
from parents, wives from husbands,
a people from their blood-soaked earth.
For love!

Here, Mother. Take the jewelry from around
my neck. All’s well that ends.
I am called Marina now: the fleet
burning in the harbor. That watchword.
That perilous crossing.

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