Powhattan's Mantle--Pocahontas' Magic Cloak
Poet's Note: Powhattan's Mantle is on display in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford England. In this poem, I imagine how Pocahontas, daughter of Powhattan, (born Matoaka, known as Amonute, and later known as Rebecca Rolfe, b.circa. 1595 in Virginia – d. March 1617, London, England) felt about the cloak, her only tactile connection to her people once she sailed to England with her husband
Wrapped in the regal
softness of her hard homeland
Amonute, Makatoa, Pocahontas
reigned over all.
The cloak was her father's.
A bit of home that traveled
with her to this harsh new
place called England.
This outer mantle matched her inner honour,
touched the place in her that
gave her the strength
to save John Smith
from the axe,
to become John Rolfe's wife,
to endure rough seas on the ship,
to try to embrace the cold damp of London.
I wonder, did she ever cry herself to sleep
wrapped in that former finery? Did she
lift it to her face amid the stink
of London to recall the
clean sweet smells of forest and the Bay?
After the birth of her son, Tom, or
doing the bidding of her spouse,
caring for her babe
did she quietly repair to cupboard
to stroke this cloak,
crying out to her father?
Then, there she could save the lives of others,
now could not save herself,
from raging fevers, not
even with the magic of her father's cloak.
Swiftly, too swiftly she descended
into the ground at Gravesend!
We have her father's cloak but
Pocahontas took its power with her.
This poem was first published in Algebra of Owls.
Joan Leotta has been playing with words on page and stage since childhood in Pittsburgh. She is a writer and story performer. Her Legacy of Honor series feature strong Italian-American women. Her poetry and essays appear or are forthcoming in Gnarled Oak, the A-3 Review, Hobart Literary Review, Silver Birch, Peacock, and Postcard Poems and Prose among others. Her first poetry chapbook, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon, was just released by Finishing Line Press. Joan's picture books from Theaqllc, Whoosh!, Summer in a Bowl, Rosa and the Red Apron, and Rosa's Shell celebrate food and family. Her award-winning short stories are collected in Simply a Smile. You can find more about her work on her blog at www.joanleotta.wordpress.com
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