When navigating by dead reckoning, it’s important to start from a known point,
time; time to give the queen a bath.
A point. Start from a point, a needle:
A compass bats its metal lash.
Make the queen’s skirts.
Make the queen in time, Columbus.
The queen’s black bronze skirts fall in wet folds in the mist of her fountain’s white jets in the Plaza de Isabel la Catolica. Her place. Steady now: Colón, black-bronze too, waits at her wet feet, half-kneeling: She’s holding metal paper.
Reckoning. Star from a known: she’s going to say yes.
My name can be Isabel.
My feet are wet too.
I felt some anchor.
I fell into water, getting out. I heard intruders. Somewhere in this house, in this heat. Somewhere in the center of this city in the dead center of this country.
What is a paper monarch? One who floats?
Twice thieves ripped the copper cables from the walls in the corridors, but I can’t escape my windows, barred with scrolled wrought iron: not even in case of fire.
I stood in the dark, listening. I called the police, twelve arrived in three cars in blue uniforms, they call them smurfs, still they are handsome and they found no one.
Seems I’m all wet.
What is a viceroy?
She deals double, laments Colón, wrapped in irons like an anchor and shuttled beneath the surface of the Atlantic from Santo Domingo to Cadiz. She dissolves
breadcrumbs into the sea: using the method thought to be used by animals, we move through the world.
It’s important to start from a known point:
Give me what I want and I will give you what you want.
My face was wet. Later, I fell.
The bruise will be long and purple-black, the shape of a fish on my shin. I smell frying pork, frying cod, frying dough and hot chocolate from the Plaza de Lavapies. It’s the August fair, so it’s August and I’m a cripple who breaks her leg in the tub, reaching for a towel, slipping. To reckon, to put in order, to estimate, or to tell, may have come from to reach.
A known: I want to go home.
I reach only Palos de la Frontera, the street with the closed post office so no letters; Palos de la Frontera, where the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria’ve all given me the slip: if I had made it in time:
I swear I am seaworthy;
I fell in the bath.
Count steps, name streets something from the past so the frontier sticks.
Like me, Colón looks behind him as he moves through the world. Counts bubbles in his wake. Watch’s a needle. Waits for a blinking boy with a glassful of sand to turn the hours. Waits for this even in his sleep, fears the boy will sleep too, fears this out loud in his diary, fears he will be lost in time
time for her bath!
it’s easy to lose sight of his face in the inky scrolls of her black bronze skirts, the metal papers she withholds. It is her place. There are over seventy portraits of different men who are him
a man I knew lived in the Plaza Colón on the eighth floor of a building with the name COLÓN perched in pink letters twinkling 24/7 on the roof, and I don’t ever want him to discover me
in the bath, dreaming a metal queen made out of paper
Cristóbal Colón, your name covers that silver ice bucket, those black sheets, the being seduced by him.
Christ on a cruise! Navigational techniques so crude, like an animal’s. Every hour with that needle boring a hole in the vellum map—ink can’t penetrate skin—one hole each hour, one star to drain speed, duration, direction—
In English this process is called “pricking her off.”
speed duration direction
leaving darker prints on the black leather couch, eating jamon iberico and langostinos, big cold prawns in clear pink shells, drinking lambrusco from an icy silver bucket till I said, “Just so you know, I’m not going to sleep with you.”
Why not, he said. Conquistador, I called him, right into his prawn-pink ear.
Where did you learn that word. That word is for Italians.
Awake she admits to only two baths in her life, that of birth and that bridal one.
Give me what I want, I swear I am seaworthy.
A paper monarch might fly or fail to convince.
His beard drips salt into his skin map.
Many people claim his body. Drug dead twice over the ocean, he popped up in a box in Santo Domingo, while supposed safe in state in Sevilla.
The queen will not make up her mind. Her black bronze dress is heavy with folds. She likes not making it up. Indecision is a kind of fruit. She holds metal paper in her black bronze hand. Metal paper is her fruit.
Secret eating in the bath is a known symptom.
The DNA tests are not conclusive. We blame the officials in Santo Domingo. For seven centuries, pilgrims follow a trail of cockle shells through the Pyrenees to Compostela, the end of the known world.
Many try to claim.
I put my hands, my mouth on him under your name.
Amargo is “bitter.” Amar is a verb widely used as an exercise when practicing Latin conjugation, how the west was
I fell—I felt—anchor
After seven centuries and a beheading, St. James popped up in Compostela field of stars with a sword and a wild yen to slay the Moors.
She will not take up her mind.
The saint’s boat was carved from a single stone, smooth as his neck. There was no captain.
Give me what I want, I want to go home.
On the starburst walls in the Hall of the Ambassadors in the Alhambra where it is claimed that Isabel la Catolica gave in to Colón and put her name to paper, the walls are covered with Arabic script reading:
No one conquers but Allah.
Anything you want.
an ironclad contract: I am my own stone boat when I fold my knees like paper and float, drawing a bath: ink doesn’t sink into skin.
Stars broke in my dream and I woke, my building shaking. I dove for my glasses.
When the saintly ship approached, the sea’s welcome washed a bridegroom away from shore, holding him close.
The living room was hot, dark and smoky. My pink nylon curtains glowed danger-red: there’s only one way out of this apartment, and it’s barred with black iron.
His bride wept and prayed to St. James.
My street was filled with firemen and smurfs, flames and the skeleton of the illegally-parked black full-size van whose doors, windows and hood burst with booms and pops: the stars broke in my dream.
When her tears dried the sea retreated in a pale rush and left her her husband and his reflection on the gleaming sand, shaking the water and the cockle shells out of his hair and his beard.
When the firemen ran out of water, they used their axes.
In the Ridley Scott film, Columbus uses an orange.
Someone stretched the hose around the corner, pumped more water.
high tide for a bath
When the van began to cool, ladies in square nightgowns came to their windows and leaned out on their elbows. I stuck my pale, wet arm through my black iron bars and waited till the police light hit me. “The whole world is up in 2D,” one smurf said, sniffing for fire.
the cockle shells that mark the pilgrims’ trail, when filled with water and lifted to the face, make fine drinking vessels.
My phone lines are melted on the face of my building and with them my connection to the whole world: the New World or what is my Old World: I want to tell someone that I’m in the middle of an explosion and that debris is raining on my windows, that wet glass is like my skin, that they are shining flashlights and water
a known: I want to go home
a paper monarch says nothing: she dissolves.
At this point, you could tell me anything.
Even his lips have small teeth in them.
Our tracks being circles proves we are not lost: a white van with a worn fan belt passed my window the morning after the fire: a ghost, whaling.
my leg caught in a black sheet: waking
cut apart like a starfish
wash a man fresh
from the sea for me
Sucking the yellow string brains from a cold pink langostino, he asks, what will you serve me when you seduce me at your home?
I felt anchor. Well. Indecision. A kind of fruit.
Emily Anderson’s fiction and poetry have appeared in various journals including the Denver Quarterly, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Caketrain, Sawbuck, Coconut, and elimae. She lives in Madrid.