STONE IN A CUZCO WALL SOFTENS TO A STRANGER
Psst. You there with your little notebook,m a u r e e n t o l m a n f l a n n e r y
trying so hard to figure something out,
wanting some confidence from me.
I who have been faithful to the things I know,
why would I favor you with secrets?
Just stand here motionless for nine hundred years
and you, too, might know something solid.
Be patient. The snows, when they come,
though colder, are less obdurate than I.
They, having swept past sacrificed children
on the heights, might have more information
about how it all goes with the old gods.
Oh, all right, come closer.
Consider this: Fiorela, the Viceroy's wife,
and the curly-haired friar with the kindly demeanor
leaned into me under compliant stars
and I said nothing.
The Chasqui's second toddler, taking charge of his manhood,
practiced peeing against me, loved to see my gray surface
blacken beneath the splash of his sunny arch.
Until now I have told no one
how I sighed into the warmth from his fat little body
as he sprayed me with his new-found skill.
And what if I have heard plots and betrayals,
petty treachery and grand connivances.
Haven't I stayed to bear the consequences of my stubborn silence?
Haven't I, as much as any, endured the rancid scent of blood
drying in pocks of my rocky countenance?
And do you remember Chaska, the high-cheeked beauty
for whom so many died?
She used to come here and offer her breath across a coca k'intu,
and say soft hopeful things to me as if I were not stone hearted,
as if I might return the soft brush of her palm.
I still hold the feel of her back
that last night she rested against me as she nursed the child.
You cannot see it.
Only I know how just here in these places
where her shoulder blades touched I am not rough.
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