Juan J. Morales



He did not have many
when ushered to the next world.
Some scattered throughout his sparse
apartment as though someone
ravaging, sought out

unfound riches.  But this happened
years before when he scratched
quills along suspended sheets,
dust hoarding on unbound
manuscript heaps.
His quills rested—frayed and brittle

on ground and desk near
inkwells, encrusted black.
He called himself El Inca and wrote
home’s dirges,
upholding name and genetic lines,
self-appointed, self-ostracized.
Garcilaso preserved Peru

in its rawest—
abandoned place summoned
in scribbled book shards, failed poems,
censored and stranded translations.
In España, no one could
possess or understand

how his flesh and stock
catenated these two worlds,
overlooked like him, his possessions
and the mestizo class he comprised.


Even after banishment from my church,
I know the soldier will return.  He will demand

justice, possession of the Indian girl
pawned for pesos that heavy her father’s pockets

that frees him from the mines tunneled
in rock.  When the soldier drags her from here, I must

restrain myself, disregard like priests with gold
fogging their eyes and hearts.  Her sobs will plow

through pews, stone, the clamor
in the streets. The weight of the soldier’s kisses

will steer her to bed, the body his nibbled indulgence.

The girl, unguarded by the church,

was born free in her native land, where New World
laws make her slave—a world that twines me

into a place where her name, almost whispered by his lips,
shambles my church within unannounced guilt.


After Fray Valverde’s mass, we cross
ourselves.  I know we are doing
the right thing; we must protect
them from themselves.  Ranks of Indians
stoop before us.  We stand
in armor, flags raised, swords drawn.
Manco, on his throne, repeats
pledges for his monarchy
and Spanish command.  Their high priest
folds his arms, detesting
how I position fringed crown
on the Inca’s head. I step back,

a perfunctory bow.  When his eyes
confront mine, the glint
yields. His young face teems arrogance,
but he is mindful of pomp
when he drinks the goblet
of chicha.  He is a god on my strings,
veining my power
through the empire’s remains.
The coronation ends with Manco,
shouldered above
with their dead kings, mummies
christened as gods.

They devour and feast, ignoring
my men and me.  Music flutes and drums,
sparking dances around us.  Before plates
of steaming fish, maize, and meats
at the royal table,
I watch Manco settle and smile.
He sees me,
then tenses.  I eat with slow
bites, veiled behind a bored gaze
inside Manco’s shadow,
ready to maneuver him like brittle bones
I spit to the ground.


On the last morning, the moon wakes him.
The capullana, woman chief,
occupies every sensation.  Each night
they kissed and colonized, skin
meshing.  Devotion gnaws
his insides.  Words in her language

rustle and entice him
to settle with her. 
He struggles—
leaving versus the pull of treason.
His eyes flash schism, wild look
overtaking him like a mask.

He weaves fingers
through her hair.  His capullana exhales.

A feeling of knives
crawls through his entire body.
In slices, the sun ascends. 

When he stirs, she calls out.  He says nothing,
loads cargo, boards the ship
bound for Spain.
Capullana studies
him with distance,
expecting him, like an ancestral guest,
to disappear back into afterlife.

When the anchor rises, Pedro Halcón
forks into two men.
One dives
into the sea, lungs full of water,
other gripped, then restrained in irons.
He begs for release and spatters

threats.  No one calms him.  His gaze
on his capullana prods
the men aside.
His yearning becomes their own
knots in their innards, tugging them
to the edge.


4 Poems


Juan J. Morales was born in the U.S. to an Ecuadorian mother and a Puerto Rican father. He grew up hearing family stories that inspired

much of the poems in Friday and the Year that Followed, his first collection of poetry, which was published by Bedbug Press.  His poetry

has appeared in Many Mountains Moving, Borderlands: Texas Poetry

Review, PALABRA (forthcoming), Poet Lore, War, Literature, & the Arts,

and other journals.  He is the Director of Creative Writing and an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University-Pueblo.