Weekly Poem: Villagrá’s Lament

February 27, 2014

Voices, Art / Culture, Poetry


        I.        Qualacú

the guiding
light of our journey across this
mesquital was
the cerro indio moon’s pale
cantankerous shine.
Oñate north across
the desert
winds rippled
the river into mud, the
bosque disappeared into
                                      the badlands.

Once the smoke cleared
the far mesa fires of Acoma glowed like
bloodshot eyes the dead could
see from heaven. Once
we were gone, their ghosted
children swam through the kiva
dusk to the un-
contested terrain of stars.
In that heat,
I spoke for the soul’s epic
struggle to recognize the solitary
divinity of a raindrop
it touches ground.

        II.       Alamillo            

I write for the glory of the Crown.
I speak for the flat, baked
faith-encrusted earth. I
am the entrada’s poet/warrior
of hard ground
I have no vices

We taught them the journey of
the Cross, we taught them the green
fields of salvation, that all
God’s children have the Guiding
in their eyes. Their shamans
watched awestruck
                                   our priests
make rain with simple prayer.

        III.        Senecú

We follow the coyotes, scorpions,
darting bats & vultures
to water, we follow the stars north,
we follow the cottonwoods to the river
we follow the river to the end
of the night,
we follow the darkness
to the myth of
buried gold.

        IV.       Socorro

I have built churches to last a
thousand years
I have beheaded deserters & left
their skulls to the wise curiosity of ravens
     on the desert floor,
I have left men behind
in unmarked graves beneath
mesquite trees
I have left behind a beautiful alien
red earth
     of memories,
I leave only with the words,
the ones left behind gather with
the bones & sing in the dust,

Not even the ghosts of the dead
 will recognize me in the end.

I am addicted to ghosts.


Note: Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá was the poet/chronicler of the Oñate entrada into New Mexico in 1598. His epic poem of the journey, A History of New Mexico, whatever its merits as literature or history, preceded John Smith’s General History of Virginia by fourteen years. Qualacú, Senecú, Socorro & Alamillo were a few of the pueblos the Spanish first encountered on their journey north. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 forced the Spaniards, temporarily, out of New Mexico.

This piece was written by:

John Macker's photo

John Macker

John Macker lives on the Santa Fe Trail in Northern New Mexico. A widely published short story writer and poet for over 30 years, he has won several awards for his work as well as being nominated for 2 Pushcart Prizes. His most recent book of poetry is Underground Sky, (the second volume in the Disassembled Badlands Trilogy). He is also the author of Adventures in the Gun Trade, Woman of the Disturbed Earth and Las Montanas de Santa Fe, among others. His books were featured in the 2009 Colorado Historical Society exhibit, A Mile High and Underground in Denver.

Contact John Macker

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