The Footlight Players Prize
Mary Wideman Carson
Returning to the New World
Thundering hooves on the sands,
dunes crowned with sea oats,
the oarsmen gaping in wonder at the fine horses.
They’d never seen such a sight in Spain
and almost forgot their mission—the wells
where fresh water waited, cool and dark.
One of the men pointed out a few goats,
left behind years ago by other sailors.
The vegetation was thick as usual, clotted with
berries, gourds and lush deep colors.
Suddenly an arrow pierced the hull of the second boat,
halting the small expedition immediately.
There was a momentary silence, then muskets sighted
on the spot where the arrow had launched, fired,
but could not penetrate the thick spongy palmetto trunks
lining the inner trough of high dunes. The command to
retreat was given, the reasoning being it was only half
a day south to St. Helena Sound, and more freshwater wells.
Murmuring regrets, the men withdrew, disappointed that
they would not see this new island with the fine horses
but they were just a skeleton crew of the original five ships
and their main purpose was closer to St. Augustine. They
didn’t see any smoke curling from the back of the island
or any more redmen. It was wiser to catch up with the others.
But they kept looking back over their shoulders wistfully.
No more arrows split the air, no more horses raced downwind.
The gray waters were choppy but quiet, foam lapping the sands.
Back to the ship they rowed, empty barrels floating tethered behind.
It had been an unplanned excursion, too close to the settlement,
too dangerous to delay getting on to their original goal.