The Heights of Machu Picchu and other Poems

PoetryI’m feeling a tad guilty that April is National Poetry Month and here we are in the final stretch, having done nothing to celebrate. Over the years, we’ve often found ways to join text with textile in poetic ways. For International Women’s Day a few years ago, Marge Piercy’s “For Strong Women” set a meaningful cadence to the images of the strong women artisans we know through our books.
During the October indigo harvest a couple of years ago, I wondered aloud about the “Sounds of Indigo Sleeping.” What seems a long time ago now, Linda Ligon and Deborah Chandler’s confusion of moral and morales led to “A Morality of Cloth.” There have been others.

Today, I had a note from A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Peru and Bolivia author Cynthia LeCount Samaké. She was writing from the peaks of Peru, which of course, put into mind Pablo Neruda’s brilliant poem, “The Heights of Machu Picchu.” It’s a long poem, so I’ve shared just a little:

This was the dwelling, this is the place:

. . . Here gold thread came off the vicuña

to clothe lovers, tombs, and mothers,

king and prayers and warriors.

Poetry

I look at clothes and hands,

the trace of water in an echoing tub,

the wall brushed smooth by the touch of a face

that looked with my eyes at the lights of earth,

Poetry

that oiled with my hands the vanished

beams: because everything, clothing, skin, jars,

words, wine, bread,

is gone, fallen to earth . . .

—Karen


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