Juan J. Morales is the author of Friday and the Year that Followed (Bedbug Press). His poems have appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review (forthcoming), Kweli Journal, Palabra, Poet Lore, Zone 3, and other journals. He is a CantoMundo Fellow and the Director of Creative Writing at Colorado State University-Pueblo.
THE DOCUMENTARIES I’VE SEEN
“Historians are gossips who lease the dead.” —Voltaire
are no match for stories fueled by coffee and excavations of books. I try to listen to scholars standing beside walls or sitting in plush studies as they accompany narrations over the graphics of how armies navigated terrain. The color-coded arrows of a tribe’s migratory patterns through on-screen maps where inches equal miles. I translate diagrams into the march. Educational reenactments use accurate costumes, settings, but even good actors just aren’t right. I sigh at edited time slots between tire commercials and promos. I’m hoping for useful statistics and keep a peripheral eye out for ambushes, the wounded killed on salted earth. Late at night, in dreams constructed by the guttural howls of men inside new world trees, I wake to the dark screen, the credits rolled, and new questions forcing me to admit after hours of watching and re-watching, I can’t understand why civilizations insist on sequencing—conquest to invasion to occupation.
ILLAPA AND QUESTIONS OF BELIEF
The word illapa triangulated lightening, thunder,
and bolts to designate struck places
sanctums to never be worshipped and sealed.
When the Spaniards opened one with prying tools,
the indios waited outside for
the fight of mutable clouds and lightening
that bathed the rooms in flames to kill
the nonbelievers. It’s my reminder of abandoned Gods
lurking nearby, in the capricious debris of time,
bumping shoulders with our modern world
and watching over the ones too stubborn
to stop believing. The story carries resistance
like a secret language that says the war
may have been fought, but the people will not
release their ties like elders gripping
deathbeds relics taken into the afterlife.
How can I not believe in what they believe?