Write a poem using iambic pentameter.
I caught a glimpse of morning in Peru
through someone else’s holiday account
and suddenly I climbed those slopes again
the steep and winding streets, the blocks of stone,
the mighty, rocky Andes, homes of gods.
He writes “Ollantaytambo” and I thrill
remembering the amphitheatre there
and how I lay full length on one flat stone
and opened to the sun, while somewhere close
an Indian man played softly on a flute.
Another tourist came and gawped at me.
“The sacrificial altar isn’t here,”
he said. “You’ve got it wrong.” I turned my head
and went on with my ritual, silently
communing with the Apu of that place.
In Aquas Calientes when we strolled
along the river path to those hot springs
in nothing but our swimsuits and our towels,
it was the locals gaped (at work below
breaking up the rocks to clear the stream).
At Machu Picchu only half a day,
I sat beside a spindly little tree
alongside one great boulder on the grass
and watched the climbers from the Inca Trail
descend into the ruins single file.
We’d been through fire-black areas at height
and looked across to Wiracocha’s face
emblazoned on the great peak opposite.
I, with my fear of heights, had almost pranced
around those paths and ledges, those deep drops.
The shaman whom we met was prophesied.
It’s nice to read he still has that same shop
where we sat down eleven years ago
to take our journey to the jaguar cave,
and afterwards we wept as we embraced.
Those boys we knew are men already now,
the orphans of the streets who helped us learn
the good cheap cafes where the locals ate
and how to not say “good” when we meant “well” –
their English better than our Español.
The Urubamba River frothed and seethed
beside the trainline for a certain way
and glaciers gleamed along the topmost peaks.
Inside stone walls now topless we could hear
the screaming victims of the sacrifice
loud in our heads, and clapped hands to our ears.
We talked with healers, three, just newly trained.
“Show us your way,” they said, “and witness ours.”
They stood and prayed. We joined them. Sparks of light
danced across their palms and ours too.
The older woman channelled messages.
“Return!” the angels said. “They love you here.”
And down in deepest jungle lies the skull
of amethyst, that Andrew is to guard.
But that is in another time, or else
his spirit guards it, being everywhere.
I tossed into the ocean one black stone
hollowed on the top, that I brought back –
a shallow dish perhaps, for catching blood.
At any rate, it seemed to make us ill
and once it left, so did our heaviness.
Eleven years. Jaguar, condor, snake
were my protectors there, guiding my steps,
and still would come, but now I seldom call.
We do return in dreams, but otherwise
Australia is home; this too is good