David Lewis Paget
The Conquistador - Poem by David Lewis Paget
When once we dived on the San Miguel
Off the coast of old Peru,
We little knew that under the swell
Was an Aztec treasure, too.
I scuba’d down, and the vessel lay
Tipped onto its starboard side,
And mostly covered in silt that day
That buried its Spanish pride.
The wreck had never been seen before
So my heart began to pound,
We’d found the ship we’d been looking for
Submerged, and under a mound,
While whisking some of the silt away
My eyes had caught a gleam,
The helmet of a Conquistador
Lay trapped, and under a beam.
But as the silt was dispersed I saw
That the helmet still was full,
For glaring out from beneath its brim
Was a fearsome human skull,
The skeleton was intact, and lay
Still trapped, where once he fell,
His legs were caught in a cannon bay
Of the fated San Miguel.
I had no time for the niceties
That I should have shown to him,
But seized the helmet from off his head
And I left him, looking grim,
I took it up to the surface as
The first of our spoils that day,
And told the crew that I claimed it,
It was mine, so come what may!
The treasure trove was incredible
Of jewels and gold moidores,
I didn’t think that my helmet would
Be missed, once taken ashore,
But in my mind was a picture that
I’d seen on the ocean bed,
Of that struggling, drowned Conquistador
And that helmet on his head.
I sat that helmet in pride of place
As a conversation piece,
Tricked it up with a piece of lace
Thanks to a helpful niece,
But then the sounds had begun at night
The clashing of steel on steel,
And shadows, moving in passageways
From something that wasn’t real.
One night, the door with a mighty crash
Fell into the passageway,
I must have been feeling more than rash
To venture toward the fray,
For standing there in the open door
Was a skeleton, with a sword,
Who slipped the helmet onto its head
Not saying a single word.
I watched it wade back into the sea
This pile of ancient bones,
And think I know where it’s sure to be
Back where it lay, alone,
It seeks its brother Conquistadors
Where each had perished as well,
Guarding the store of gold moidores
In the hold of the San Miguel.
7 December 2015
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