Cibola 97

Shiwanna/Esteban (cont’d)

Don’t believe it.
Neither what you hear in Cí­bola
nor the missed footfalls
of your jackrabbit
heart. Think
like a jackal thinks. Act
like a blacksmith: no
unnecessary blows. Remember
your unknown father
in whatever sort of heaven he may
still find good hunting.

They broke
the gourd: good riddance.
They stripped me
of amulets, bells & feathers,
tobacco pouch, even
the Holy Child
of Atocha: fine.
Maybe they’ll learn something.

From this cell I can hear
what goes on,
how they rush, argue,
fight among themselves.
Tonight I have nothing
but tomorrow I’ll make
their walls my armor–
you’ll see. They need
rain? I’ll bring it.
They’ll need protection
from Cortez,
from Coronado; I’ll be
their shield . . .

They have me figured
for a corpse. Well,
nothing cures whatever ails
like death. Old Bones,
you know what Hippocrates says:
we’re each sworn to guard
the other’s secrets,
yes? But in any case
you’re way too pale
for this climate.
That friar with
his shaved head sure ought
to earn a halo
from this, if only
to keep off the sun . . .

A good man, I admit. The rare
honest brownrobe, sure
of nothing but
God’s mercy. For that
I envy him. Still,
give me the license to think
my own, my will-
ful thoughts:
give me the desert
no one else wants, the shape-
shifting sands, the thorn-
scrub to explore
in an ever-diminishing circuit.
To chart, to map
in ever-growing detail,
right up to the smallest
spider mite,
a red mote in some vagrant angel’s eye.

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