All the Pieces We Scattered, Haphazard

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We’re shaken from sleep,

from the momentum of exhaustion’s steep grade.

The endless buses that pave the way,

finally halt to let us relieve

in fields of purple quiet

over the Peruvian desert.

East and West are forgotten signposts

hobbled in the salons of dusty depots

strewn amidst shabby cities of sand

barely able to stand against arid hillsides,

parched of water.

There is barely a breath,

or an oasis within the depth

of an immeasurable sea,

where the sun, balanced on ridgelines

would walk across a great expanse for me.

It’s inconceivable how a journey through this landscape

could culminate at Macchu Picchu

and its lush well of mist.

Where you can grace an ancient wall and gaze out

over the breadth of the Andes,

into the secret depth of rivers.

Always transitory,

life’s beginnings and endings

for worse or for better on paper

swirling together in vapor

lifting like a luminous breath

deep from within the mountain’s chest

to form along this rift an embrace,

what we built time will replace

with or without significance.

Yet to move through these portals with fortitude,

along passages and over tracks

where the speeding train attacks

the boredom and the repetition.

Another bus pulling out of a tiny plaza

towards that final position,

where the road finally falters

at four in the morning

and leaves what we’ll offer

upon Santa Maria and her broken alter.

All the pieces we scattered, haphazard

to form the forgotten places we’ll share

when looking back,
there was a harmony to the unknown,

though perilous when undefined,
it’s the only home we’ve ever known.

 

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There’s another story to the one that is written,

emphasizing blank space rather than substance,

with rare feelings of bliss in this swirling mess of decision.

Without direction to witness the drifting,

places and languages change yet are still understood

to be suggestive and undefined, with nothing to turn to

for the ones leaving with a swift exit, perhaps understanding

that they cannot enclose the fleeting.

The great lengths they would go to fill the contours of dreams,

as buses follow highways and guides follow streams,

they’re pressing on.  Shells to the back,

slick was the path over the residue of what they would lack,

being strangers in a strange world.

Crossing borders, one after the other,

like the blind following the blind,

no words no guard rails to guide them

beyond mountains into vast distances,

where mysteries are scattered

monasteries of smokey silences

in the snow-capped peaks above Arequipa.

They appear like a mirage from out of the clouds

when soaked in the sun going down,

settling into every crack and spire,

gripped by those feelings of awe

they’ve gone great lengths to desire.

Up and down the Pan America

clinging to cliffs and tomorrow,

traveling lightly and unattached

to the heavy burden of sorrow,

to heat and cold lack of communication,

through outposts too remote to resemble

that which brings the sweet scent of ginger,

replaced by the smell of burning trash,

a pungent scent that unburdens the past

of all that is no longer portable

and cannot be fit in a pack,

to drag what is necessary

from bus to hostal

from boat to barrio

down pushcart streets

whose voices greet the silence

with peddling “pescado”.

They drag their tired frame to the next shelter,

waiting out the rain and the passing weather,

to follow the sparkling of stones

up to another in a long line of temporary homes.
The length of their stay, perhaps one night unknown.

 

 

Sudden Glimpses

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With sudden glimpses

into a mist that is memory,

there’s a prose that is barely visible,

like an innuendo,

suggestive of something grounded.

Lost thoughts preoccupied and entangled

in narrow alleys turned to mud,

lines become stories

sprouting from rooster seed,

free to roam without fences

lodged for awhile in the present,

though it could be long ago

that progress passed you. Tiny farms forgotten and absent of windows,

full of holes for the banished souls

living without Soles.

Truth be told, life is hard.

The daily routine only eclipsed

by the beauty of perseverance.

Strong are bond and family,

the sense of village, identity.

Things that are forgotten

when words do not move me

to appreciate the details of my luxury.

Given everything but a sustained purpose.

Happy to travel to find glimpses.

Purpose, a strange concept

to those who have never journeyed

beyond their fields and flimsy walls

but share what they have

as if their kindness

is all of the world

they need to be aware of.

 Moving along the sodden passageways

through the half-light.

Andean rain make the cobbles wet,

everything smells of earth and mule shit.

With every step your boots round up echoes,

like the tiny clamor of Quechua pots,

earthen ovens smoking behind Inca walls.

He'll remember the faces under the brim of their hats,

the loss that lives in wrinkle lines,

in the doorways of suppertime,

dirty-faced kids clutch woven skirts.

Perhaps they mutter to each other in a strange tongue

“Where is he going?"

Slouching towards darkness and ruin.

Under the graves in the cliff,

past the crossroads to drift through the country night,

along the swollen shoulders of the river,

brown with rain run-off and blood memory,

you write down some sense of the past.

How passing through here could stir up

what had long ago settled.

He was out there a while

under the twilight eucalyptus,

listening to the children's singing

die into the distance of hills and pastureland,

where the animals sleep where they stand,

with a shadow that crawls up from under their feet

when the tiny lights of the village

vacate the square

but will not extinguish the insistent glare,

the collaboration that a restless mind

and inspiration seem to share.

Mexico, 10 Hours from Anywhere (a Montage)

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In the middle of nowhere,

a dusty taco stand.

The hush of high desert chaparral,

the silhouette of a field hand

near where Cassady walked his last tie,

in the place where American cars go to die.

Rusted sculptures in vast lots,

trash rot borders,

pristine expanses

vultures descend on dead dog carcasses,

pastoral expressions of the lurid and strange.

Low range storm clouds stacked against San Miguel,

10 hours from anywhere, it rests on an epicenter of quartz.

 

On a tin roof in a thunderstorm.

Modern signal fires in the distance of night sky,

vertical bolts and slanting rain.

Faces watch from under the arcaded frame.

Features illuminated in the interval of flashes,

police cars and further lightning.

Mariachi smoking in corners

with no one to play for,

moments congeal

like wax sculptures in cathedral candles

sealed under statuary.

The pews speak of vacancy,

while walls hold all the reverence and sorrow.

 

Through the highlands you follow

the satchel gathering,

wheels awash over roads,

between these arroyos

weave witness to a primitive sacrament.

Ramshackle transport to a tiny miracle,

the bus, like a slow procession.

Is it a funeral or a wedding?

All is seen in this setting,

hills green from seasonal rain,

the kind that sweeps tiny towns away,

leaving makeshift alters in their wake

like scars on the fertile landscape

carved into the curves of what nature misshapes.

The voluptuous land lay in waiting

for an azul sky to transform to an ancient lake,

for a barren land to become fields for maize.

 

Another morning disoriented.

It could be anywhere but it is Mexico.

See the dilapidated bell tower in the distance,

smell the fumes, hear exuberant tunes

from persistent stereos,

Mexico, a cheap hotel where anything goes.

Roaming the debauched streets

undistinguished from the other gringoes.

Going from town to town,

restaurant to bar, cab to club

to rub shoulders with your illusions.

Cash in a money belt, looking for a good deal.

What goes on here?

In this black market, meat market of the surreal?

Mexico, from the cracks in the wall of a dingy room,

you see whatever you choose,

a muddy river, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

One last impression

before your senses regroup.

Turning home, your mind muddled

but content, that is enough for now.

Travel, Like a Stream that Runs Parallel

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The days linger on,

like a rain that hangs

over the island’s

timeless embrace.

Streams trace the streets,

chase debris out to sea.

Perceive the occasional

floating flower petal,

fleeing like an insignificant detail,

a star amongst the gnarled traffic

of tree limbs and vine,

it becomes more profound in its travel.

Lapsing into symbolism

that will unravel

the mystery of unconscious scenes

just below the surface,

subterranean streams running parallel

to the lingering routines.

Suddenly the universe

and its lightning-infused

electricity of happenstance

conjures a crystallized moment,

a recognition of perfection,

 an art without the need of further correction,

a stage we can gracefully leave

what we preconceive

behind the mask of striving.

Reviving the beat, we dance in unison.

Poised for the next change in rhythm,

content to let the world of thought

fall away into its own revision.

Above the abyss of the audience,

we’re positioned on the cusp of decision.

Do we walk the fine line

or give in to expectation?

 

Asking not for support but momentum,

I come to this crossroads limping.

Trusting I’ll find my feet again,

a retreat into dreams again,

 a long and winding highway

that untangles the reeds

of someone’s needs,

enclosed in glittering ports,

those soft resorts

that line the shore

of your creative wasteland.

Now that it is light it is time to leave.

The colored roofs, the twisted routes.

There’s another bus to catch,

another town

of multi-colored pastels to undress.

On some ancient Calle

framed by cacti,

a whole stretch of valley lays before me.

You can hear the distant horns

in courtyards, mariachi.

Do not disturb the stray

asleep in the doorway.

Leaning against a wall,

I pull a brim hat over my eyes.

No need to disguise

how good it feels to be alive

under foreign skies again.

To reach for the sun

that blazed through what was barren.

To feel the rain

 that glazed a green hue to the hilltops

that fill you with the desire

to play chase with the clouds

above the chapels,

stepping from one to the next,

until finally you become a tiny speck

on the horizon.