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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic


by Bill Cushing



Up where the mountains curl like sleeping dragons,

Peaks, piercing far above the clouds, in another world

two miles above sea level sits the center

of the Incan empire, Cusco, a pupute:

bellybutton of the planet.

Like a crouching panther this place,

all diagonal slopes, everything hard stone:

boulders, smooth squares of grey granite

the size of a room; cobblestones, loose ovals

of softer pastels; and of course, interrupting

the landscape, the weighted masonry of churches

with arches lifting statues promising

spirituality but instead delivering conquest.


In the morning, from the town square, comes

the hammering: a stonemason crouches

amid rocks, boulders, and stones. His song rings out

with each ping of the steel striking the rock

he works on. Not far, a finisher chips

discretely on the rough work, trimming rock

into shapes that could easily have come from a lathe.


Then there are the people, the cusqueños:

trudging along the sloping roads and paths,

they carry belongings or wares in the lliclla

colorful blankets sprouting babies, flowers, hay,

or more stones, the wraps that wrap around

stooping shoulders and seem to push the carriers

into their own incline, making their shuffling way

up these narrow and steep streets

while we tourists steep coca tea in our rooms,

attempting to adjust to the heights.

At midnight we bolt awake, our bodies

gulping air to catch breath; feeling a tingling

in fingers, we drown in thin air.


The cusqueños, like the stones surrounding them,

are squat, browned, with hearts enlarged

and noses slightly widened: equipment for the altitude.

The old ones peer through occidental eyes

cracked and peeling from age and knowledge,

knowledge ancient and pure. The look says,

“Nokanchis ocmanta causanchis.”


“We will endure.”

Submitted: November 05, 2020

© Copyright 2020 Pisces Poet. All rights reserved.

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