They had no idea of the new continent, not then. Two mountain
ranges, bison between. Sheer will and hopeful logic.
A trade route across, a straight river, would be perfect. This river,
where the ocean flowed in, was perfect.
Straight and deep cut into the walls. I don't know when they
realized their river was the ocean breaching inland.
Spanish vessel, they say. Full of gold, they always say.
that he already knew, understood, signs like the shore life,
the water never any sweeter, the huge channel
wound through dead-dry mountains, all those signs
he must have known.
That's how he was. They turned around, heading back to the gulf
maybe in a white-knuckled panic,
maybe not. To get back to the ocean before the channel dried up,
closed off. They were too late,
came around a corner and boom, a solid rock wall. Whatever
waited ten years and maybe another vessel would have seen
their fires. Maybe made it. But they didn't.
The crew didn't walk arm and arm back to the Pacific beach.
Something happened. Indians attacked.
Vessel ran aground. Mutiny. Died of thirst, raving in the heat.
Once it was all inevitable,
he slipped off one night and headed back towards the ocean.
He was that way, not cruel
but a tendency to leave off, disappear. All I know is that I heard
about this ship, this ghost ship,
from traders. From the Indians. It wasn't until I was an old man
that I met him.
Some say the vessel ran aground in the ever-shallowing
waters, sand covered it.
Or it wedged in a rocky canyon, the old channel to the gulf,
and hung there until it rotted to pieces.
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson