March 9, 1955. Esteban the Moor comes for Matthew Hensen.

“Go and see the world, because this place that we come from is behind God’s back” Janine Antoni

Esteban, The Moor:
I, from East to West, have come
For you, Matteo, South to North. You are a
modern man. The world is a globe.
But the Leviathan and winged monsters wait
beyond the parchment’s curl.
It is time to forge our own black cross
and fall from Golgotha’s face.

Mathew Henson:
Estebanico, is it you? The snowy owl
of my dreams?
Man of mettle shaman slave?
Textbooks hid you yet I knew.
Esteban the Moor, like
Simon the Cyrene, pressed
into shouldering Christ’s cross.
Slave three times over-- Portugese,
Spanish and Indian raiders all
took title to your head.
Wanderer of a continent, savior of
Cabeza de Vaca’s lost expedition…

Esteban, The Moor:
Cutting in. Yes, it is I.
And We, their Negroes
treading on mirages. Wielding miracles.
I’ve watched you. Your heart’s directives hawked
and rivaled Peary’s compass.
By dead reckoning you cleared the Pole.
Eighteen years of faithful service
null and void, Admiral Peary jealous
of your feat, never returned a word again.
Much like my own fate, leading the survivors
back to New Spain only to retain
slave status & be sold into service
and on to my death.

Matthew Henson:
Interjecting. And am I on to mine?
I see you & your owl feathered gourd.

Esteban, The Moor:
It’s time to lose this life and skin.
My own became hide as I wandered
your country’s Southwest.
We naked survivors shrunk.
Torrefied bodies reduced to
sinew & bone. A jerky
we cannibalized. Our only food
save the yellow flowered prickly pear.
Much like you and your sled dogs.
We know the hunger of this life,
Come Matteo, come roam unmoored.
You hear my rattle? This time it ends.

Matthew Henson:
A cerebral hemorrhage. Matthew,
the kind one, felt blood flash. Life surge. Biting
bracing. The blizzard on his path.
“To me the trail is calling. The old trail. The trail that is always new.”
and then white cold & colder still.
blinding subzero light.
Not a falter. Dead.

Esteban, The Moor:
Esteban nods, but only with his eyes. A mischievous glint.
Perdido. Perdido
Welcome to glory,
The glory, Matteo,
When lost was alive.

Come let us tear at the grasses.

Sienna Shields