methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Song to the Southern Latitudes

Every indigenous lung in Cuzco
Is filling up with carbon –
One more gift
From the New World
To the people of Peru.

But there are still streets
Not yet suffocating under the heavy breath
Of the diesel bestiary,
Streets with walls of great stone,
Quarried from the mind
Of the crimson Inca,
Where your lungs leap
Like thoroughbreds from the gate,
In pursuit of every molecule of oxygen
In the high, light air of the Andes.

And when I slip away
To catch my breath
Between the close walls of such a place,
In a grey place,
Stripped of contrivance,
To an Aymara woman
In a red, woven wool wrap
And worn fedora
Foraging in a pile of food waste
And the other serendipity of poverty.
Her skin stretches over
Her indigenous cheekbones
As if over the frame of a drum.
Two children stand just aside,
Sucking their fingers
To some secret rhythm,
Their wide eyes,
And round, brown faces tethered
To their mother’s every move.
Across from them,
Another mother mines the mound.
In spite of the brown collar round her neck,
She is wasted and feral,
No longer carrying the loyalties
Of that more benevolent time.
Her pups, too,
Have learned to wait and watch,
Wagging their tails
In rhythm to their own anticipation
Of their mother’s return,
Her teats full,           
Her snout damp with sweet mysteries.

It is a scene torn loose from a magazine
By the careless coriolis
Of the southern hemisphere.

That their trajectories
Should have collided in this place
Was unremarkable to them.
In the hand hewn, cobbled lottery of Old Cuzco,
Families survive on marrow
Sucked from the bones of a civilization
Long since flayed and gutted
By the long knives of history,
Which, only now,
We have decided
To embalm in diesel fuel.



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