Esteban (3) (cont’d)
But why should he feel
so lost, so much more a wanderer
now, with the destination fixed?
As castaways, their goal had never been
any more certain than rescue.
Like Moses & Aaron returning
from the mountain for
the first time, before the exodus,
with a directive that seemed
so straightforward, so just.
The tribes all so tractable–even joyous.
The cane of power still slight enough
to fit comfortably in the hand.
No plagues in sight.
Toward the end of it they start hearing
about seven cities. By then
they’ve become almost acclimated to
the miraculous–the dead returning
to life, the chronically ill
rising from their mats, the possessed
regaining their wits–
so they’re hardly surprised that the No-
Place of the balladeers should lie
just over the next chain of mountains,
guarding the heart of La Florida,
the not-yet-deflowered land.
But they draw back, turn south
despite Esteban’s pleas.
Refusing to enter what sounds like
a new Canaan without reinforcements:
the same shrinking
that condemned the Hebrews to forty
years in the desert. Cursed
to follow their dwindling herds
until every last rebel was zeroed out
& the waters of rebirth
could once more part–but only
for those born in the wilderness.
Even though the majority probably
never wanted to revolt.
Like Esteban, perhaps,
they’d nowhere else to go,
no other prospect.
La Florida: then applied vaguely to the entire mainland north of the Caribbean. Native and European notions of utopia (literally, “no-place”) cross-pollinated in the imaginations of many of the conquistadors. In the widespread Indian conception, the flower-strewn land that greeted the souls of the dead was always just over the next set of hills.
the waters of rebirth: Israel’s final exit from the wilderness required the miraculous parting of the Jordan, echoing the parting of Reed Sea in flight from the Egyptian army forty years earlier.