Powhattan’s Mantle, Pocahantas’ Magic Cloak – by Joan Leotta


Powhattan’s Mantle
Pocahantas’ Magic Cloak
(on display in the Ashmolean Museum)

(Pocahantas, daughter of Powhattan, was born Matoaka, known as Amonute, and later known as Rebecca Rolfe, b. circa. 1595 in Virginia – d. March 1617, London, England)


Wrapped in the regal
softness of her hard homeland,
Amnute, Makatoa, Pocahantas
reigned over all.
The cloak was her father’s.
A bit of home that travelled
with her to this harsh new
place called England.

This outer mantle matched her inner honor,
touched the place in her that
gave her the strength
to save John Smith
from the ax,
to  become John Rolfe’s wife,
to endure rough seas on the ship,
to try to embrace the cold damp of London.

I wonder, did she ever cry herself to sleep
wrapped in that former finery ? Did she
lift it to her face amid the stink
of London to recall the
clean sweet smells of forest and the Bay?

After the birth of her son, Tom, or
doing the bidding of her spouse,
caring for her babe
did she quietly repair to cupboard
to stroke this cloak,
crying out to her father?

Then, there she could save the lives of others,
now could not save herself,
from raging fevers, not
even with the magic of her father’s cloak.

Swiftly, too swiftly she descended
into the ground at Gravesend!
We have her father’s cloak but
Pocahantas took its power with her.




Joan Leotta has been playing with words since childhood. She has four novels, a collection of short stories and a picture book in print with three different publishers, available on Amazon. She has won awards in the US and abroad for her writing and performing. Her poetry and essays are in Gnarled Oak, Red Wolf, A Quiet Courage, Eastern Iowa Review, Hobart Literary Review, Silver Birch, Postcard Poems and Prose and others. Her second picture book, Summer in a Bowl, comes out in September 2016. Joan also performs folklore and one-woman shows on historic figures. She lives in Calabash, NC where she walks the beach with husband Joe. Find her on her blog or on Facebook.


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