Estevanico

of Azamor
at the mouth of the Oum er Rbia River
Province, Doukkala
Dorantes’s slave, with Captain Castillo
and myself Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
named in honor of Alhajahad
grandson to the conqueror of Canaria,
four far from a tribe, lost
band of followers, at once
master and slave, trader and healer
lost, after shipwrecks, having starved,
our thirst so great we drank salt
as foretold by the Muslim woman from Hornachos
We sought war and gold and souls
among the barbarians, burned their villages,
then separated, lost, but in the end escaped
by the mercy en la pasión de nuestro redentor Jesucristo
to tell the tale of the Seven Cities of Cíbola
             The hunger and thirst we endured
the people always cured, whatever they had they gave
us, warmed us by their fires, sheltered us
             People who mourned their dead children
for a year, each morning before sunrise,
the whole clan wept, noon and at daybreak,
household didn’t eat for three months,
so deep is their mourning for their children
             People of the bison, men naked, women
and elders clothed in deerskin, the land parched,
maizeless, they boiled their water with hot stones, we
headed into the setting sun, following the maize road,
surviving each day on a handful of deer fat,
crossed the river, to the people who only ate polvos
de paja, powders of grass, for four months of the year,
they gave us flour and squash and frijoles and cotton
mantles, we crossed the medranos, the people
gave us beads and coral and emerald arrowheads
             We saw women in lengths of cotton, closed
with ties in the front, half-sleeves of buckskin
that touched the ground, and wearing shoes
The people sought our blessings, thought
we came from the sky, Estevanico
speaking for us, as we passed
through a great number of diverse languages,
we knew six, but found a thousand differences
            We were fed on the hearts of deers,
some feared and fled from us, the people
having been chained by the ones who came before us,
the ones we sought so feverishly to tell them
No more killing
No more chains, please
Do no more harm, Holy Majesty,
the wretched and disastrous end
we suffered on account of our sins

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