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From Real Commentaries (Ancient Peru)

The Dead Conquistadors


By the water they appeared

the men of blue flesh,

that dragged their beards

and did not sleep

to steal their skin.

Traders of crosses

and firewater,

began the cities

with a temple.


During the summer of 1526,

the rains erupted over

their daily chores and heads

when no one had mended

the old rusty armors.

There also grew, black fig trees

between altars and pews.

Among the rooftops

some sparrows snapped their beaks

at the bells.

Later in Peru, no one was free to

move their shoes through the house

without stepping on the dead

nor lie down next to the white chairs

or swamps,

without sharing the bed of some

cancerous relatives.

Shit on by spiders and scorpions,

few survived their horses.  

[Translated by Ron Rodriguez © 2010]

Antonio Cisneros was born on 27 December 1942 in Lima, Peru. He is one of the most important Latin American poets and intellectuals of the twentieth century. He gained recognition not only as a poet but also as a journalist, literary critic, prose writer, chronicler, and translator. His books of poetry include Royal Commentaries(1964), Ceremonial Song Against an Anteater (1968), for which he was awarded the Casa de las Americas Poetry Prize for all Spanish America.