Landfall, by Jonathan Fletcher
Francisco Pizarro González by Amable-Paul Coutan, Public domain, via Wikimedia
Every time I stand at the edge of the Pacific,
wiggle my brown toes in white sand,
I fear not the undertow. I see
neither jellyfish nor sharks
unless conquistadors count as sharks.
Instead, I spot Pizarro’s caravels. From
their gullets emerge hooves, boots.
As the other beachgoers plant their colorful,
patterned parasols, all I can see is armored,
bearded men thrusting the flag of Spain
in native sand: the red saltire inside
the white ensign teethed like the jaws
of a shark. No greed greater than
theirs, even the finned man-eaters’.
Nearby a group of small children work on an
elaborate sandcastle. Though I admire their
collaboration, my hands and jaw still
tighten, when I picture Spain’s castles,
their designs imported to Lima: slated
spires, Corinthian columns, niched
apostles—each part of the capital’s
cathedral, built atop Inti’s shrine.
And yet, I cannot help but finger the crucifix
on my cross necklace, wondering whether
Pizarro ever did the same. All the while,
a voice gently whispers to me, As I once
forgave humanity, you, too, must forgive.
Though I try, it’s hard, seeing boots of brass,
each spurred at the back, disembark, meet
bare feet they’ll later shackle. Or gloved
hands grasp for arms full of gold, silver,
emeralds, textiles made of vicuña. Baskets
stuffed with huaco. And still demand more.
Instead, it’s far easier, feels much better, to
picture their ships splintered in waves,
slivered cork-oak afloat in the foam.
The water turned crimson by shivers
of sharks. So, too, the greaves
and gorgets, each chewed, sunken, lost.
Originally from San Antonio, Texas, Jonathan Fletcher, a BIPOC writer, currently resides in New York City, where he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in Poetry at Columbia University’s School of the Arts. He has been published in Arts Alive San Antonio, The BeZine, Clips and Pages, Door is a Jar, DoubleSpeak, Flora Fiction, FlowerSong Press, Lone Stars, New Feathers, OneBlackBoyLikeThat Review, riverSedge, Synkroniciti, The Thing Itself, TEJASCOVIDO, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Voices de la Luna, and Waco WordFest. His work has also been featured at the Briscoe Western Art Museum.
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