Cibola 22

This entry is part 22 of 119 in the series Cibola


Esteban (1) (conclusion)

But the Franciscans & their ilk persist
in praying to an idol, a stern-yet-loving
Father Superior. They style themselves
apostles reincarnate, preaching holy poverty
to the dispossessed. Just like
his step-father the slave trader
piously calling himself a slave
of God
. A man who could tear
a child from his mother’s breast,
could keep for a wife
a woman worth
one camel-load of salt.

He spits.
The sand shifts, uncovers the shadow
of a claw, a whip-like tail.
In a land this full of heat & mirage
how much life, how much of reality
moves underground!

Then again–he answers himself–
how much of reality could anyone take
if part of it weren’t concealed?

This is the voice he hears
most often now: Rationem,
a ceaseless shadow-play of judgements.
Evenly pitched, like the drip from
a water clock. Though at times
he feels a pounding at
his temples, as if
from some belligerent emissary
of the Spaniard’s Lord, disinclined
to try & bend his ear. He pictures

nothing so substantial as
a creature with wings, coming
down to perch
on his right shoulder.

Or maybe the left, he mutters
with a shrug. A jinn can take
any shape.
These mountains move.


apostles reincarnate: The first missionaries admitted to New Spain, a year after the conquest of Tenochtitlan, were twelve friars, selected for their alleged resemblance in humility and poverty to Christ’s twelve apostles.

Rationem: The Latin word seems more suggestive here than the English “reason.”

A jinn: The jinni in Islamic belief are not fallen angels, but anthropomorphic beings created before humanity “from a smokeless flame of fire” (Qur’an 15:27, 55:15). According to the hadith (sayings of the Prophet), every human being has a companion jinn who acts as a tempter, but jinni can be tamed and even converted to Islam. Among Islamicized West Africans (including the descendents of former slaves in Morocco), non-Muslim gods and ancestral spirits are typically “converted” into jinni in order to continue invoking their powers, for good or ill.

These mountains move: Cf. Matthew 17:20, 1 Corinthians 13:2.

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