1616 c/o Chantel Louise Tattoli

Rebecca née Pocahontas

At twelve she saved Captain John Smith’s skin. First the Western title princess grafted onto those high cheek bones. Later a baptism and a new name given her, white like powder brushed on bronze. Rebecca. She married John Rolfe, this is certain, but we don’t know if she wanted to. A son came out the color of honey mixed with milk, like he got the best of both worlds. (He would do well for himself.)

1616 now:
Pocahontas is 21. She—with some others like her, a holy man among them—is voyaging to London to the royal court. This is a PR stunt. Look, look. They finger her whited cheeks. The New World is being colonized. Come. Invest! It’s safe, civil. “Civil” they say handing blankets to the natives. The smallpox virus nuzzles in the fuzz. Thank you for the corn and the squash. Here, have a blanket.

Pocahontas doesn’t know John Smith is alive and in England. They don’t meet, but he writes to Queen Anne: For God’s sake, Annie, treat her like a princess. So when Rebecca is presented at court, by all accounts they love her. And if you’re a proprietor the thing to do is rename your tavern La Belle Sauvage, as backhanded of a compliment as they come. She meets James; him so understated she has to be told afterward that he is King.

Pocahontas sits for an engraving. The portrait doesn’t get the exotic femme across. She looks butch. Her hair pulled up high off her forehead, crowned with a kind of velvet top hat; in the embroidered jacket and wide point lace collar of that time. Someone in the future will adapt an oil from this engraving. They will soften her, but worst of all, they’ll plumpen her high cheeks to look like a British lady.

It’s 1616, and next year she will die.