Apocalypse 1492

When the Caribs appear
suddenly in our midst,
garish & silent as vipers,
I hurl myself into a tree,
find refuge on a high limb.
All night I sit straddling
the trunk like a lover,
one ear against the bark,
& at daybreak look down
into a hammock of leaves —
the ground is lost to me.
My only view is of blue:
the sea, the sky, & on
the line between them,
a strange new island shaped
like a moving hand, fingers
webbed like the claws of a seal.
In the sign language of the islands,
an open palm means
We have nothing.
We seek hospitality.

That’s what the Caribs said
too, at first, their weapons
hidden in their canoes.
How have we offended you,
I want to shout, but I know
we haven’t. We simply happen
to taste good, like the seals —
though at least a seal can hide
among the waves.
The island draws near,
& I can see it’s lousy with men.
The sun flashes off their bodies
as if they brought their own seas
with them. I hear shouts
in one ear, & in the other,
something deep & slow
that has nothing to do with us.

Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

6 Replies to “Apocalypse 1492”

  1. Geesh! Are all the comment people waiting for Columbus Day? Great poem, Dave. Always a double edged sword to perhaps see ourselves as others see us,( Provided of course we identify with “lousy” Columbus.)

    I love this! :” a strange new island shaped
    like a moving hand, fingers
    webbed like the claws of a seal.”

    and this:

    “The sun flashes off their bodies
    as if they brought their own seas
    with them.”

    Ah Heck! I like the whole thing.. Beat’s the heck out of “In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two; Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

    Right now, however, most all of us are just trying to stay afloat. The cannibals have already gotten the economy.

    One question. What is that ‘deep and slow’ sound. I’m thinking cannons..since it was perhaps an age before foghorns..but as you may have gathered, I studied art, not history. Now to sit back and see where I got this all wrong.

  2. Nathan, Joan, thanks for the comments. Glad you liked. I’m not sure how well the moving seal paw image works, but maybe I get an A for effort? Most readers probably won’t catch the irony that the Carribean monk seal is also now extinct, along with the Carribean Indians, Carib and Taino alike. And it seems my closing image might be a little obscure, as well. I was talking about the sounds a large tree makes if you press an ear against the trunk. I could definitely stand to make that a little clearer, I think.

  3. Well, I thought the boat image was probably the most evocative. As for the tree? I know about seashells. Now I must go out and lend an ear to that huge Sweetgum in my backyard. I am rather afraid of what it might say.

  4. Wonderfully evocative of time, place and occasion. Puts me in mind of the aborigine’s speeches that intersect the scenes in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play ‘Our Country’s Good’.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.