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Paul Hlava Ceballos

Kingdom of the Americas Sonnets:
Atahualpa, the Last King

  We do not use the Western way of calculating time.
—from Atahualpa’s last words

When I was killed, I faced my birth.  
Dark queen, scarlet blush and gem-sweat, 
cradles in arms a newborn king- 
dom, which quakes and crumbles in half. 
Thanks to my mother’s help telling 
my beginnings, my life has seen 
thirty-one harvests and a crow 
stitch itself in a speckled egg. 
The past like spirit thrives ahead. 
Flames retreat to spark, soldiers march
back to boats, warships are saplings. 
Neighbors plant gold to grow a town.
As rope twists tight around my neck, 
I lift my brothers from their graves.

from banana [ ], winner of the 2021 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry

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