“Landing Party” by Nels Hanson

Peru! New World! God gave so much,
Paradise should have worked despite

Pizarro! All waited in readiness if we
had set one man ashore, our captain,

naked in a boat, bearing gifts, no glass
trinkets but picture books, to display

the horse, a bridge, an arch, no church.
Let Inca inspect red beard, pale skin,

count toes and fingers, teeth, survivor
from a fallen world. Learn to speak

first their tongue, ask what they know
of love, birth and death, of dreams, of

heaven, where they came from, what
medicines they use, crops and fruits

they cultivate, their tall sheep’s name,
wool woven into bonnets, what stars

they follow. As conquistadors bow in
reverence to their risen sun. Examine

for disease whole ship’s crew, alert to
pox, carriers in chains below. Soldiers

with record of rapine and plunder, sex
crimes fit with iron cod, two snapping

shears cocked to single spring. Drink no
spirit but what the women decant. Allow

each explorer the gold he can swallow,
jewel for one ear. No sword, cannon or

blunderbuss on land, steel armor, helmet,
crucifix. Make clear our desire for help,

that we’ve sailed far to learn how to live,
to discover if they know. Tell them we

understand if some prefer we lift anchor,
float years away, blot out Peru on every

map. Hand on Codex swear we’ll lie, say
we found no human beings living there.

Surely they might have welcomed us as
cousins in need if leeward they hadn’t

breathed our galley’s stench and known
we’d only love them for what was ours.

* * *

Nels Hanson has worked as a farmer, teacher and writer/editor. His fiction received the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award, Pushcart Prize nominations in 2010, 12, and 2014, and has appeared in Antioch Review, Black Warrior Review, Southeast Review and other journals. Poems appeared in Word Riot, Oklahoma Review, Pavilion, and other magazines, and are in press at Pacific Review, Carnival, Sharkpack Review Annual, NonBinary Review, The Straddler, Dark Matter Review, and The Mad Hatter’s Review. Poems in Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine and Citron Review have been nominated for 2014 Pushcart Prizes.

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