We stand up, trembling, wailing, weeping.
The waves of the storm
have capsized the boats we made
out of determination and fear.
We lost the captain to his own self-interest,
gone into the water
like a trout
disappearing beyond the reach of light
They came for us, feathers crowning their heads and
arrows shot straight and true.
They feared us
which was only right
for we had crossed a distance
they could not fathom.
They were not Christians,
only savage dogs
that we hoped would someday convert,
or be converted into corpses.
The land was all water
and fallen trees
and we spent so many months
naked and half-dead.
But let me not speak of the these things,
of which you cannot imagine.
We did not know where we were,
except lost in our own misfortune.
The land was inhospitable
and its people terrible savages.
Long were the nights in the cold,
fearing for our lives, praying to
Our Lord that he might save us.
The last thing I have in my mind,
the last image of that place
that will not leave me,
is the tall and handsome stranger,
fit and strong,
weeping for our misery.
I cannot name him.
He did not speak our language
and I could not speak
the tongue of savages.
I see his face lit in the small halo
of the bonfire’s light, weeping.
That was long ago,
and all his people are now gone,
leaving the land empty,
water and fallen trees,
oysters no longer harvested.
I cut my hands trying to pull food
out of the salty water, so great
was my hunger.
I drank the bitter water, so great
was my thirst.
The stars are bright and the wind
strong. A storm comes and our
boats are set off course,
tumbling into dark water.
That is all there is, now:
Memories, moonlight splintering into
spider webs over the dark water.
I sat on the boat, many years later,
and went back to
I never saw those men again.
It was as if they had never
touched me, never saved my life,
never gave me fresh water
or built a bonfire so I could
sit and be warmed in
Christ had not touched them,
those unredeemed savages,
lost in the storm of a superior nation:
Mine. The words feel like
hunger in my mouth and I
taste blood. The boat rocks back
and forth, safe now, safely sent back to
Christian lands. No one is left to wonder,
what happened to that
man, whose life I saved? What came of
my compassion, my pity, my grace?
The storm rages, and we stand up in
the waves, shouting, trying to hear each other above the storm.
But long before nightfall
long before salvation
all who are left
will be drowned.