Fourth of July at the End of the World

Maya Wahrman


            Finisterre, Galicia, Spain

Cortés, who landed near Vera Cruz in 1519 with a force of only 508 men, burned his ships to demonstrate there was no turning back, and marched inland.

            Colin Galloway
            First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History



Once you reach those kinds of cliffs all you can do
is turn back. Walk your last few kilometers inland through forest,
watch the moon rise over the waves. Some pilgrims burn
their shirts and socks to start a new life. You share
a cheap two-liter bottle of beer and salt and vinegar chips.
After all, it’s a national holiday. The Swiss hippies
are making schlangebrot at the bonfire. Snake-bread, they say.
They twist sweet dough around walking sticks
that came to be cremated at Finisterre.
The last rites of our wooden companions: 
roasting hot dogs and s’mores. Three American girls
dressed in red white and blue hand them out, 
melted suspect sparkle-pink marshmallows
found by chance at the local grocery store.
Our lives are hinged on this being only half the story, 
on the Atlantic crashing into Plymouth Rock and Ellis Island, 
but the lighthouse sees no one. We lose ourselves in the bonfire.
We all have the same numb look as we stare into the flames. 
By the time we get here, we can only go back.



Maya Wahrman recently graduated from Princeton University's Department of History, with certificates in Creative Writing and Near Eastern Studies.  She currently works at Princeton's Office of Religious Life on issues of faith and forced migration. She has had opinion pieces published in the English and Hebrew editions of Haaretz, and has had poetry published in the Nassau Literary Review and the Jewish Currents Poetry Anthology Urge, with upcoming publication in Fifth Wednesday Journal. She also writes regularly for the Princeton University homepage and has had her coverage published in the Catholic Star Herald.

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