Forked Tongues of the Gorgon

by Angel Uriel Perales

I, Africanus, not counted among the glorious thirteen,
bereft yet of proper name and human dignity,
am afraid. I am afraid for my immortal soul.
I have seen omens fulfilled too dreadful to behold,
committed atrocities unseen and unforgivable if told.
I have subsisted on the slime of poisonous snakes
and turtle eggs and languished in the mangrove swamps.
This for the fever greed of gold I’m never going to hold.
All this fevered gold, I am never going to hold. Perdón.

I was the second to disembark behind Alfonso de Molina.
All the locals touched my skin and made me wash my face
and when they saw the blackness was my own, they invited
me personally into their homes. One beautiful runa proposed!
Candia scythed through the center of Tumbes, all six feet ten
with his calculating eyes, a Greek artillery man, him they loved
the most. The virginal mamaconas grabbed between his legs!
The temple, a small local gilded temple, glittered in the sun.
Molina lost his power of speech. Bocanegra jumped ship when
we tried to go. Forgive me Lord, guide me to sin no more.

Then pestilence preceded us down coast. A legend arose
of a dwarf accompanying a black man wearing a black cloak
carrying a box, a gift, when opened paper butterflies flew out
and dissipated. Smallpox in Pandora’s Box, Michicana died,
Wayna Capa was mummified and carried to all the villages.
When I returned I was regarded with suspicion, left untouched,
same bitter status as before, Lord, help me to sin no more.

Cajamarca square, chichi and maize beer poured upon the floor.
Oh this angered them but the armored horses also terrified them.
Atahualpa carried in his usmo, golden throne, thousands
crowded in, Pizarro smiled his deadly squint. Friar Vincente
performed the rituals of submission, crucifix and breviary,
claimed all lands and wealth for Spain and benefit of God.

Something happened, Friar Vincente’s bible thrown and stomped.
My Toledo sword fighting hydrae, decapitate a head, stab two.
Bile and blood, gun smoke from the porticoes, Incas crushed
under horses hooves, here is an arm which I cut off. Oh God,
I think I am the one who sliced De Leon in the upper thigh,
forgive my clumsiness, forgive my hide, forgive my vainglorious
pride in stride. Pray for the lost to be saved according to your will.

Pray for God to send laborers to harvest. Pray for a witness
of love to all the brethren, for the host. Pray for the righteous
fear of the Lord. Pray for Satan to be bound, for miracles of God.
Pray for the door to be opened for the preaching of the gospel.
Pray for unity among believers. Pray for wisdom among believers.

Shush. Be quiet. All the buildings now filled to the brim with gold
and jewels and gems, carved jaguars, exotic birds, golden bowls,
gathered and stolen from the temples of the land for weeks, months.
The whispered echoes changing rumor of who fought brave,
struck first, saved whom, all for a choice apportion of the gold.
The priest now spoke loud, the king mocked, grabbed the breviary,
pissed on his robes, who knows? Vincente Valderde blessed or
did not bless the king, who knows. El requerimiento, I suppose,
as treacherous as the forked tongues of the gorgon. None died.
Five Spaniards died. I can tell you De Leon died from his infection.

Or maybe De Leon was smothered in his sleep. This will begin,
the jostling for position, elimination of the extra shares of spoils.
But all the gold will eventually go to the infamous disciples,
who crossed the line in the sand for all that fervent gold,
for their fervid lord currently fomenting dissent amongst his peers.

Mamacona! I grabbed you for my loot, took you from the temple.
You will guide me out of here. Don’t worry about the old king,
he will be betrayed once his usefulness has been fulfilled.
You will come with me if you want to live, so help me God.
Where is this Vilcabamba, this El Dorado? Where is this gold?

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