The Acentos Review


The New World 

Voyage Four 

The natives of Costa Rica didn't know what to make of the large boat that pulled up beside their canoe or the men who pointed weapons at their heads. Of course they expected to be robbed, but how could they have understood the men who took their gold jewelry and asked, Where did you get this? over and over. Columbus gave the natives paper for a map and decided the giant phallus they drew was the Eastern Coast of the Indian subcontinent. 

When the storm came, Columbus was in a good mood. He knew the ocean on the other side of all this land would take him to Africa, and the castles full of gold were waiting at the next bay. The storm raged nine days. By day four, the crew debated throwing Columbus overboard because, like Jonah, he was obviously cursed by God. They decided instead to simply ignore him. 

By the time Columbus' ship limped onto the coast of Jamaica, its sails were shredded like palm fronds. Columbus kissed the sand and promised to convert a hundred more Indians. That night, he watched the driftwood smolder and hoped his son would become King of the Indies and that he'd grow old in a vineyard with a dozen grandchildren who would all inherit his coat-of-arms. Columbus thought about all the people he'd seen die and all the times he'd almost died and wondered if he'd be greeted at the gates of heaven by Saint Peter, who would understand his feeling of uncertainty, and ushered into the City of God or whether he'd be buried to the neck in molten sand as his eternal torment. Looking at the patterns of stars for answers, he fell into a dreamless sleep.  

Voyage Three 

Columbus came back to Europe in chains

because he was so inept at exploitation

even the soil wouldn't produce for him. 

At the trial, the judge called him admiral

and laughed. Everyone knew the world was round.

What were you trying to prove? 

Columbus said, I just wanted to be the first,

and the judge said, Before you, or kings, or country

there was only God. Who do you think you are? 

Columbus shuffled home in tears, bought wine and a prostitute,

and took them to bed. In his dream, the Atlantic shined like the eyes of a woman

crying, and he was at the wheel of the Santa Maria ploughing furrows through the ocean, 

while a crowd of cocoa-skinned, topless women sang his name

in three part harmony. The crewmen formed a line to kiss his feet

and grovel on the shores of Hispaniola. Someone gave him a crown. 

When he woke, grasping under sheets, the bedroom was empty.

from his window looking down on the streets of Cadiz,

he pretended the peasants were his loyal subjects 

and pardoned them all for their lack of intrepidness. Columbus inhaled deeply.

The air in his throat was salty like the skin of a woman, the taste in his mouth

after a long night of drinking, or the Caribbean Ocean. 

Voyage Two 

The water off San Juan made sailing

feel like floating. When he landed,

Columbus sank a cross into

the sand beside the Spanish flag

and thought that heaven couldn't be

more perfect. From the beach, the world

seemed like a giant ship and he

stood at the bow to guide it forward. 

Everything was good except

the savage Indians. They wore

no clothes. They worshiped rocks. They screamed

too loudly. No one knew if they

had souls; this made Columbus angry.

He'd hoped to put them out to sea

In a life boat headed for nowhere

with little conflict, but their souls

had to be saved. Do Indians

go straight to hell? he asked the crew.

You have to kill them first, a voice

rang out. Columbus didn't laugh;

He sighed. This was no laughing matter. 

Voyage One 

The men almost forgot what green looked like.

Columbus said, Let's sail a little farther,

and the whole crew thought he was bat-shit crazy,

but just before they turned around, when they

were on the verge of stabbing the next man who cried

out land, there was an island: it was green.

At first no one could speak, and then Columbus

laughed! You all can kiss my ass, he said

and no one disagreed. Columbus thought

himself a hero, someone like his savior

Christ. When he closed his eyes, the image burned

into the dark was Jesus' face.

                                                     The anchor

raked the coast and Columbus sank his boots,

Italian leather, in the sand. He'd dreamed

of standing there for his entire life,

but something felt unsettled. The beach was empty.

The shops with cinnamon and precious stones

Were missing. India was different

Than he'd imagined. Everything was silent

on the shore, too quiet. Even birds

refused to sing. Shouldn't everyone

be celebrating, he thought, even the birds. 

Bolívar is the Man I'd like to be

      Hemos arado en el mar. 

Because he was the first American

Latino president and dictator. 

Because, a Creole, he thought he could unite

A continent himself in one lifetime. 

Because he rode as if his ass was iron

And he was handsome like the Marlboro man. 

Because he fucked on every continent

He visited and took the time to write 

His women beautiful letters: “Yo lo quiero

Resueltamente.” My love's unwavering

Because he was 5'6'' like me and fought,

When he was angry, like a wounded bull. 

Because, I bet, when he died alone and withered,

An outcast, he could see the future marching 

Past his bed with enough artillery

For at least two more bloody centuries. 

Because he died desperately, the way he lived,

And on his deathbed wrote “We've plowed the ocean.”  

Because Bolívar only thought he'd failed.  


Elijah Rene Mendoza

A native Tejano, Elijah Rene Mendoza is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of California, Riverside. He currently teaches in the English Department at Baylor University and particularly enjoys writing formal and metrical verse.