From the recording Conquistador (HD)

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Conquistador (25:27)
© 2016 David Lowery
This is a dramatic work not a musical composition. It is not subject to compulsory licenses, blanket licenses, DOJ consent decrees, safe harbors or any other federal limitation of the author’s exclusive rights. All reproduction, distribution, public performance (in full or part), display and/or the creation of derivative works require express written permission of the author.
This is a limited edition of 1000 copies.


© 2016 David Lowery
neon clouds swirled above the alcohol like a flame
yet i followed her
for the health of my disease hung in the balance
i had no choice
i flew southward into a chaotic metropolis
i rode in taxis and stuttering streetcars
I rode in jitneys up steep hillsides
along dirt trails through villages
until the chaos dwindled
the dramamine and cane liquor shared with strangers
i drew closer
i knew i was dying

at the last town a friendly hotel
in the ruins of a conquistador redoubt
i shared a room with a cyclops
i slept with a knife and an antique pistol
we never spoke except in the rowdiness of the bar
i shouted in english he shouted in turkish
yet i came to understand he was a bandit
who likewise lost an eye to a greek sailor

languid, drifting, i was without purpose
days months or years passed
i have no recollection
i had lost my purpose
i knew i was dying but even that i postponed

alas, an unknown offense was committed
a huddled circle, murmurs from the shabby tea room
a quick glance over the shoulder from the bandit
it was settled
i was to be exiled
the desk clerk obliged me with a guide
his name was queequeg
he was jolly and earthy
but always darkened when my flask appeared
and these days
that was before the shadowless noon

he took me to high valleys
to my singlemindedness
and at last it appeared
we stood on a ridge and queequeg pointed down
into an improbable green valley
like ahab i limped towards her white tent
the grass beating arrhythmic drum brushes on denim
queequeg stayed on the ridge counting his pesos
then he watched us and waited
she greeted me happily
the tent was zippered
at dusk when we emerged
queequeg was gone
we built a fire and sat close together

I would awake in the tent to bright sun
to my stillness
the sea of grass eddying quietly
the andean cold only a hint in the wind
she was always away
with the aborigines
in their high villages
returning only at night
awakened by her warmth
her moist breath

i woke before her one morning
the malaise had returned
I knew it would stay this time
i drank from my flask
the earth rumbled below me
a curious thing
appearing its way along
like an aardvark in the grass
a vectored wave and then another
“what was that?” she asked from the tent

that same day we packed and moved higher into the mountains
oblivious to those buried under mud brick
for the radio had been abandoned when the batteries quit
within weeks we ceased speaking full sentences
in English or any language
then we lost even the single words
things were no longer named
nothing was discreet
there were just areas
broad tones
yet we lived
grunting and pointing
like the german tourists in the marketplace in quito

the world without names was curious
a pull tab glinting in the sun, was also the sun,
and the sun was also a smell from my childhood
and that ended with watering eyes, a deep and powerful sadness
all things ended there
the singularity

I should be happy i thought
eating guinea pigs as snack food
in the high villages
dribbling quechua
still the lurking mass metastasized
it blocked the sun
I lived in the shadows

when the militia men and teen soldiers visited
i may have been happy
which was also the sound of the grass left behind,
and also the burning taste of the l’aguardiente they traded with me
our incan hosts feared them
weltering like smallpox blisters
nevertheless they were stoic
they donned their bowler hats
an english court
formally and coldly played their strange waltzes
meters cut neatly in half, by duplets, martial drums
marching waltzes
other times the shining path in black masks,
their ages impossible
their violence implicit
i shared our dwindling grape with them
she was aroused by their danger and violence
we always retired early to our hut
They drank and took delight listening to our couplings

after the earthquake i remember the c-5as
enormous but from our vantage above they were playful toys
circling otters on the sea of thick air
fortified with smoke
rising from the ruined city
smoke rose always in this land
everywhere, which was also her hair
which was also a certain smell from childhood
which was different than that other smell
but ended with watering eyes and the deep sadness
the singularity

I captain ahab now drunk on fermented quinoa
In desperation took a vow
to begin speaking again
it was awkward
i would shout ”likewise a tit is better than nothing”
The villagers didn’t understand but laughed with me
as days passed I found other crooked phrases
i shouted them in the village
or whispered them to her at night
“never ignored… but never more has been barked”
she stroked my hair and rubbed my stiff leg
which about the time of talking had developed a tremor
I knew i was dying
and that was all

there she stayed
in villages of altitude sickness
for a nobler cause than I

like a deep sea diver who surfaces to fast
i had left the continuous wordless realm,
and entered into the discreet world of language too fast
noxious gases had formed and chemically bonded with the words
new molecules of speech were born
twisted strands and double helixes
benzene rings
an alchemy of sorts
i could only share my secrets with other alchemists
the rhyme for orange
the strange beauty of the word vacuum

one night she sent me away with the militia men
she sobbed and spoke in perfect non crooked english
i was disappointed she did not share my gift
i cried and was angry
in the valley of the whispering grass a trap was sprung
shining path rose black against the moonless sky
i laid down in the grass and listened to echoes of bullets
the echoes stopped
the shining path walked around and slit the throats of the wounded and dying
when they came to me i waited for the knife
instead water from a cup.
a bit of bread
“vacuum” said one of the hooded

at dawn i woke in the eddying grass
surrounded by the still surprised militiamen
though of course they were still dead
perverse relief i had not dreamed this
improbably queequeg was on the ridge
where i left him many many months ago
queequeg spoke of the earthquake
the city was dangerous and ruined
full of armed gangs and american marines
there was a civil war
although he offered to take me to the conquistador hotel bar
to see the cyclops
i shook my head to decline

along the coast to queequeg’s home
an old colonial port city
curious blacks and melungeons
with japanese surnames
an endless circle of bars
queequeg lived amongst the colourfully painted tin
in the tidal flats along the beach
each morning he took a crowded bus to the north
shrimp farms amidst the dead mangroves
disapproving witness to a bloom of nitrates fingering into the sea

while i was drunken abuelita on the bus
proffered seats and gently led off at my stop
the bus cobbled away into the old quarter
slums streaming beyond
i limped to each bar in succession
these a legacy of a bauxite boom
in the previous century
grave nations preparing for carnage and war had found this gentle place
flattered her
brought her to flowering
and then abandoned her
an apartment building on the bluff above
was built to resemble a ship
porthole windows,
looked to the sea
only now as an old maid was one of her suitors to return
embarrassed by it’s continued youth and virility
she pretended to have forgotten him
she looked away to the sea

at night marines filled the bars
i had ceased speaking
they called me the mute,
they gently mocked me and bought me drinks
they helped me into the converted hearse
a cab driven by one of queequeg’s uncles or cousins
the seasons were a gentle wobbling
barely perceptible
but at the equinox a rotation occurred
the first marines bawdy
these were mean conscripts
the first night they beat me unconscious
i awoke after some days in a military hospital
my countrymen were like aliens
they smelled of milk and disinfectant
they told me i was dying
i tried to sign a document
i was given cash by a civilian
he had a terrible mustache and reflective glasses

i was assigned a congenial MP and a wheelchair
he talked of affairs i knew nothing about nor cared
an oil pipeline had been sabotaged the day before
the crisis in my former country
he took me to queequeg’s colourful tin
but i refused
at last he understood and carefully wheeled me into the don quixote
with its yellowing bullfight posters and blaring television

that night i dove into that lake of drear
swimming along the bottom i found a golden dead koala
i knew this was my alchemist prize
all the crooked phrases had unraveled the singularity
i clutched it to me before the blackness hit
i was kicked by a barmaid
she was shouting in spanish
my tattered denims were warm with urine
the tile of the floor was cool on my cheek
this soothed me
a crowd gathered around me as i was dying
i clutched the koala to my chest
no one would take it