The slowness of graves in unburying
the dead is small thanks from earth for the way
it’s been treated. Erosion is the bleak
thing between your legs and crooked river
banks will fail like all others. The tender
moon rises. The horse you ride tonight
explains the local news: mayor, teacher,
football coach, two women wearing glasses,
had their heads and feet sliced off by a crew
of comrades. The youngest of the killers
stayed behind to sew the heads and feet back
on, backwards: the feet, so they could not be
followed, the heads, so they could not be seen.
You’re here to risk your life, but not reverse
the Conquest. These mountains hold no powder
as powerful as gun or coca leaf,
(the Incas’ giddy revenge on white men)
but it’s white mountains that brought you and will
deliver you whole. Bandits stick to trains,
but gravity can ruin your day on ice
sweating from the sun. The small boy who leads
your horse could be Tibetan, Navajo,
or mongrel, but is a campesino
named Jofino. In his rusted Cuzco,
Spanish is foreign, like war. Sendero
says, that will change soon. Not Spanish, but war.
Jofino’s black eyes hold the reservoir
of hatred the war will fill. The darting
Urumbamba, damned for tourists, will run red.
Beggar on its gold throne, Peru will stand
and shout at sun. Metal detectors squelch
Pizarro’s departure from Lima’s airport.
Burial shrouds molt like snakes and snakes retake
the Amazon. A shining path, the truth.
Above you: gliding condors circle, pink
flesh of conquistadors in their glinting beaks.