Cuernavaca, by George Franklin
for Omar Villasana
In the cathedral at Cuernavaca, fish
Wait below the blue surface, teeth bared.
A ship filled with samurai cruises above them,
Each armed with machete or halberd--
Conquistador samurai—while captured missionaries
Follow in another boat.
Beyond the wooden
Doors, afternoon turns the courtyard white.
Vendors sell flowers, hats, toys,
And across the narrow street, that’s us talking
In the shade, drinking cold beer,
Waiting for evening.
Bought a place here for his mistress. Bought
May be too polite a word for it. The house was,
As they say, a forced sale. It came complete with
Gardens, cool in summer, mild in winter.
They didn’t enjoy it for long.
In the cathedral at
Cuernavaca, on the stone above the heavy
Wooden door, fish with sharp teeth
Wait below the blue surface
Of the sea. The boat filled with samurai
Author's note: "The work that prompted the poem is the fresco in the cathedral at Cuernavaca of the captured Franciscan missionaries, including Felipe de Jesús, being taken by their samurai captors to their trial and crucifixion. They move over the surface of blue water containing some really nasty looking fish with teeth. This part of the fresco is above the door, and the water is painted on the underside of the entrance. The 17th century fresco was uncovered during a renovation of the cathedral. It had been completely forgotten."
George Franklin is the author of four books, Noise of the World (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions), Traveling for No Good Reason (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions), Among the Ruins / Entre las ruinas (Katakana Editores), and Travels of the Angel of Sorrow (Blue Cedar Press). He is also the co-translator, along with the author, of Ximena Gómez's Último día/Last Day (Katakana Editores). More information can be found at https://gsfranklin.com/.
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