The Inca’s Half-Brother Chooses His Way

by Ken Turner

Paullu Inca, Peru, 1545 

It came to him in a dream stained brown and gray,
the brown of their beasts’ stiff neck-thatch, their holy men’s dress,
and a gray not of this place, not the damp caress
of an altiplano fog nor the silvery way
boulders bloom on a moonwet slope, but the gray
of the bits in their creatures’ teeth, the gray of duress
and wrath, iron and ash. Awake, breathless,
he knew: these metaled ones are here to stay
— and put on gray and brown. He reddened his sword
with Indian blood, learned how to humble a mount
and copy his name, wear doublets and hose, take
the host. When at last he grasped the title of Lord,
he blazoned his shield with a jungle-cat, a fount
of golden palms — and a single crimson snake.

A summer resident of North Carolina, Ken Turner has been living and teaching around the world for the past seventeen years, in Pakistan, Ivory Coast, Venezuela, and now China. His poems have been published in Atlanta Review, English Journal, Southern Poetry Review, International Quarterly, Fine Madness and other literary magazines, as well as in several anthologies.
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Pat Jones
Published 2 January 2011