We Came This Way


Anita Endrezze

"I often questioned those people of Sinaloa, especially the oldest and most understanding of the men, and whence they came, and in what period they had populated these lands . . . they passed this way from the continent of Asia, by way of the north, or across a narrow arm of sea, which until now, has not been discovered."

from : Triumph of Our Holy Faith among the Most Wild and Barbarous Nations, by Father Andres Perez de Ribas, 1617, [well before Bering found the strait named after him.]

We came this way
we came this way
which has not yet been discovered     this way
by a Dane across a narrow arm of mast or sea

this way we came

our skin is red-orange from the sun & wild mulberry juice   our skin
is mysterious, scattered with ice-colored clouds of cottonwood seeds
this way our skin is a continent
journeying over mapless water

this way

we are beautiful       in our ears, long indigo blue loops of cotton
& white pearls, aqua-pink shells         this way
we always hear the sea       & in our noses like green crescent moons:
bright stones       our hair loose & straight as rain

we came

skirted in woven willow, or fibers of maguay, fine cotton       this way
we came naked
or in blue capes, skins of night jaguars & green-eyed stars
this way

we became

animals in the spiral breaths of mountain roars,
this way into the rivers dark-mouthed centers       we came
discovered, discovering thick forests of ebony, brazil
& rosewood where birds can not fly

this way

we heard the alligators dreaming of carving
sky into flesh shapes so we came to ford rivers
with loud talking       this way we are called People Who Shout
it is our way

we came

to our enemies & killed them       this way: with flint knives & spikes embedded
in the ground       with poisoned arrows       with blood spattered war clubs, spears
with men drinking the juice of the mescal plant & dancing
this way we impale our enemies heads on poles       we insult them

this way

everyone fears us so we are safe
this way we live when it floods: we build houses in the trees
dreaming of red stars falling into our hands
this way we enter the water of our souls

we came

to the ocean to harvest sea kelp, pearls       with nets of sisal fiber
we fish this way       there are deer, wild pig, rabbits, iguanas which we hunt
this way; where there is water in the hollow of trees we find them
& break their jaws, stringing them together

this way

we can hunt many hours with fresh meat & later, with our fingers
we probe for small stones in the iguana's stomach     these are good medicine
the hechiceros suck out thorns, sticks or pebbles     it goes this way

we came

to corn, beans, squash,       from the north we came, carrying tobacco
& pieces of coral,   silver in medicine bags, small knots of scalps,
animal or human       we passed this way with our youngest & oldest
from far north       only the Spaniards came from the southeast

they came

with gifts of smallpox & slavery   this way they came
with spotted horses & striped blankets which we wore this way
over the arm which pointed north
when they asked where there were riches of gold or silver       away

that way

we said, go north   there you will find what you seek   far north
across the narrow sea   follow the Red Road into Asia,       go back
far until you come to Spain   go home   that way       go that way
& leave us for we have come this way       this way

we came.

from: Throwing Fire at the Sun, Water at the Moon, a work in progress.
Unpublished (on paper)

© 1997 Anita Endrezze

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