- Alabama History
Hernan DeSoto’s helmet crested through the Castilian ranks like a shark’s silver fin.
If not for the forests’ lushness, old growth breaking to shingles the warm October light,
the natives could have tracked its flash for miles. The schoolchildren, who have never seen
a living Indian, see them paint with ocher and mud their Hollywood faces.
Their chief, a giant named Tascaluça, rode the Spaniards’ largest horse, but still his feet
dragged through sun-browned wiregrass. Kids in Tuscaloosa and Mobile
memorize his spelling, star the map Maubila. Tascaluça led the troops
inside the village walls, barred the gates, and asked his council whether to behead
the foreign devils, or cut their pale throats. But every student knows the way it went,
the way it always went. After the test, passed or failed, the cafeteria kids
invent their bloodlines, brag of Chickasaw matriarchs, grandpas a quarter Creek,
conjure ancestry on the Trail of Tears. They ride the yellow buses home, past fields
of pines owned by timber companies. [End Page 146] White-tailed deer, dumb as apples, step
tenderly across the road. The ghosts of conquistadors ride high upon their backs. [End Page 147]
juliana gray’s second poetry collection, Roleplay, won the 2010 Orphic Prize and was published in 2012 by Dream Horse Press. Recent poems appear in or are forthcoming from River Styx, Birmingham Poetry Review, the Journal, and elsewhere. An Alabama native, Gray lives in western New York and teaches at Alfred University.