Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Bucket List

Everyone knows about "the bucket list" - it's the wish list of things we want to do before we "kick the bucket". Well, Machu Picchu is in the "top 5 places I want to experience before I die" section of my bucket list. Below is Pablo Neurda's "The Heights of Macchu Picchu". While most people are only familiar with section VI I've included the entire 71 page piece. I've kept the spelling and grammar exactly as Neruda wrote the piece. Also, "Top of the World" will be playing as you read this because those I've spoken with who've been to Machu Picchu say it truly is as if one is standing on top of the world. Plus Eddie Van Halen's guitar rifts totally kick ass (you REALLY need to crank your speakers up to listen - it'll make you want to move your body and rock)! So, grab your favorite relaxant (liquid or otherwise), enjoy the images (there are also some more images in an earlier post - June or July, I think - just scroll down, you'll find them and they're cool images), the music and the poetry, think about the experiencing of this magnificent place and just "be".

"The Heights of Macchu Picchu" - Pablo Neruda

From air to air, like an empty net,
dredging through streets and ambient atmosphere, I came
lavish, at autumn’s coronation, with the leaves’
proffer of currency and – between spring and wheat ears –
that which a boundless love, caught in a gauntlet fall,
grants us like a long-fingered moon.

(Days of love radiance in discordant
bodies: steels converted
to the silence of acid:
nights disentangled to the ultimate flour,
assaulted stamens of the nuptial land.)

Someone waiting for me among the violins
met with a world like a buried tower
sinking its spiral below the layered leaves
color of raucous sulphur:
and lower yet, in a vein of gold,
like a sword in a scabbard of meteors,
I plunged a turbulent and tender hand
to the most secret organs of the earth.

Leaning my forehead through unfathomed waves
I sank, a single drop, within a sleep of sulphur
where, like a blind man, I retraced the jasmine
of our exhausted human spring.

Flower to flower delivers up its seed
and rock maintains its blossom broadcast
in a bruised garment of diamond and sand
yet man crumples the petal of the light he skims
from the predetermined sources of the sea
and drills the pulsing metal in his hands.
Soon, caught between clothes and smoke, on the sunken floor,
the soul’s reduced to a shuffled pack,
quartz and insomnia, tears in the sea,
like pools of cold – yet this is not enough;
he kills, confesses it on paper with comtempt,
muffles it in the rug of habit, shreds it
in a hostile apparel of wire.

No: for its corridors – air, sea or land –
who guards his veins unarmed
like scarlet poppies? Now rage has bled
the dreary wares of the trader in creatures,
while, in the plum tree’s coroner, the dew
has left a coat of visitations for a thousand years
pinned to the waiting twig, oh heart, oh face
ground small among the cavities of autumn.

How many times in wintry city streets, or in
a bus, a boat at dusk, or in the denser solitude
of festive nights, drenched in the sound
of bells and shadows, in the very lair of human pleasure,
have I wanted to pause and look for the eternal, unfathomable
truth’s filament I’d fingered once in stone, or in the flash a kiss

(That which in wheat like yellow history
of small, full breasts repeats a calculus
ceaselessly tender in the burgeoning
and which, always the same way, husks to ivory –
that which is ghost of home in the translucent water
belling from the lone snows down to these waves of blood.)

I could only grasp a cluster of faces or masks
thrown down like rings of hollow gold,
like scarecrow clothes, daughters of rabid autumn
shaking the stunted tree of the frightened races.

I had no place in which my hand could rest –
No place running like harnessed water,
Firm as a nugget or anthracite or crystal –
Responding, hot or cold, to my open hand.

What was man? In what layer of his humdrum conversation,
among his shops and sirens – in which of his metallic movements
lived on imperishably the quality of life?

Being like maize grain fell
in the inexhaustible store of lost deeds, shoddy
occurrences, from nine to five, or six,
and not one death but many came to each,
each day a little death: dust, maggot, lamp,
drenched in the mire of suburbs, a little death with fat wings
entered into each man like a short blade
and siege was laid to him by bread or kinife:
the drover, the son of harbors, the dark captain of plows,
the rodent wanderer through dense streets:

all of them weakened waiting for their death, their brief
and daily death –
and their ominous dwindling each day
was like a black cup they trembled while they drained.

Irresistible death invited me many times:
it was like salt occulted in the waves
and what its invisible fragrance suggested
was fragments of wrecks and heights
or vast structures of wind and snowdrift.

I had come to the cut of the blade, the narrowest
channel in air, the shroud of field and stone,
the interstellar void of ultimate steps
and the awesome spiral way:
though not through wave on wave do you attain us, vast sea of death,
but rather like a gallop of twilight,
the comprehensive mathematics of the dark.

You never came to scrabble in our pockets,
you could not pay a visit without a scarlet mantle,
an early carpet hush enclosed in silence,
a heritage of tears, enshrined or buried here.

I could not love within each man a tree
with its remaindered autumns on its back (leaves falling
n their thousands),
all these false deaths and all these resurrections,
sans earth, sans depths:
I wished to swim in the most ample lives,
the widest estuaries,
and when, little by little, man came denying me
closing his paths and doors so that I could not touch
his wounded inexistence with my divining fingers,
I came by other ways, through streets, river by river,
city by city, one bed after another,
orcing my brackish semblance through a wilderness
till in the last of hovels, lacking all light and fire,
bread, stone and silence, I paced at last alone,
dying of my own death.

It was not you, grave death, raptor of iron plumage,
that the drab tenant of such lodgings carried
mixed with his gobbled rations under hollow skin –
rather: a trodden tendril of old rope,
the atom of a courage that gave way
or some harsh dew never distilled to sweat.
This could not be reborn, a particle
of death without a requiem,
have bone or fading church bell dying from within.

Lifting these bandages reeking of iodine
I plunged my hands in humble aches that would have
smothered dying
and nothing did I meet within the wound save wind in gusts
that chilled my cold interstices of soul.

Then up the ladder of the earth I climbed
through the barbed jungle’s thickets
until I reached you Macchu Picchu.

Tall city of stepped stone
home as long last of whatever earth
had never hidden in her sleeping clothes.
In you two lineages that had run parallel
met where the cradle both of man and light
rocked in a wind of thorns.

Mother of stone and sperm of condors.

High reef of the human dawn.

Spade buried in primordial sand.

This was the habitation, this is the site:
here the fat grains of maize grew high
to fall again like red hail.

The fleece of the vicuña was carded here
to clothe men’s loves in gold, their tombs and mothers,
the king, the prayers, the warriors.

Up here man’s feet found rest at night
near eagles’ talons in the high
meat-stuffed eyries. And in the dawn
with thunder steps they trod the thinning mists,
touching the earth and stones that they might recognize
that touch come night, come death.

I gaze at clothes and hands,
traces of water in the booming cistern,
a wall burnished by the touch of a face
that witnessed with my eyes the earth’s carpet of tapers,
oiled with my hands the vanished wood:
for everything, apparel, skin, pots, words,
wine, loaves, has disappeared,
fallen to earth.

And the air came in with lemon blossom fingers
to touch those sleeping faces:
a thousand years of air, months, weeks of air,
blue wind and iron cordilleras –
these came with gentle footstep hurricanes
cleansing the lonely precinct of the stone.

You dead of a common abyss, shades of one ravine –
the deepest – as if to match
the compass of your magnitude,
this is how it came, the true, the most consuming death:
from perforated rocks,
from crimson cornices,
and cataracting aqueducts,
you plummeted like autumn
into a single death.
Today the vacant air no longer mourns
nor knows your shardlike feet,
forgets your pitchers that filtered the sky
when the knives of the lightning ripped it open
and the powerful tree was devoured
by mist and felled by wind.
It sustained a hand that suddenly pitched
from the heights to the depths of time.
You no longer exist: spider fingers, frail
threads, tangled cloth – everything you were
dropped away: customs and tattered
syllables, the dazzling masks of light.

And yet a permanence of stone and language
upheld the city raised like a chalice
in all those hands: live, dead and stilled,
aloft with so much death, a wall, with so much life,
struck with flint petals: the everlating rose, our home,
their reef on Andes, its glacial territories.

On the day the clay-colored hand
was utterly changed into clay, and when dwarf eyelids closed
upon bruised walls and hosts of battlements,
when all of man in us cringed back into its burrow –
there remained a precision unfurled
on the high places of the human dawn,
the tallest crucible that ever held our silence,
a life of stone after so many lives.

Come up with me, American love.

Kiss these secret stones with me.
The torrential silver of the Urubamba
makes the pollen fly to its golden cup.
The hollow of the bindweed’s maze,
the petrified plant, the inflexible garland,
soar above the silence of these mountain coffers,
Come, diminutive life, between the wings
of the earth, while you, cold, crystal in the hammered air,
thrusting embattled emeralds apart,
O savage waters, fall from the hems of snow.

Love, love, until the night collapses
from the singing Andes flint
down to the dawn’s red knees,
come out and contemplate the snow’s blind son.

O Wilkamayu of the sounding looms,
when you rend your skeins of thunder
in white foam clouds of wounded snow,
when your south wind falls like an avalanche
roaring and belting to arouse the sky,
what language do you wake in an ear
freed but a moment from your Andean spume?

Who caught the lightning of the cold,
abandoned it, chained to the heights,
dealt out among its frozen tears,
brandished upon its nimble swords –
its seasoned stamens pummeled hard –
led to a warrior’s bed,
hounded to his rocky conclusions?

What do your harried scintillations whisper?
Did your sly, rebellious flash
go traveling once, populous with words?
Who wanders grinding frozen syllables,
black languages, gold-threaded banners,
fathomless mouths and trampled cries
in your tenuous arterial waters?

Who goes dead-heading blossom eyelids
come to observe us from the far earth?
Who scatters dead seed clusters
Dropping from your cascading hands
to bed their own disintegration here
in coal’s geology?

Who has flung down the branches of these chains
and buried once again our leave-takings?

Love, love, do not come near the border,
avoid adoring this sunken head:
let time exhaust all measure
in its abode of broken overtures – so
here, between cliffs and rushing waters,
take to yourself the air among these passes,
the laminated image of the wind,
the blind canal threading high cordilleras,
dew with its bitter greetings,
and climb, flower by flower, through the thicknesses
trampling the coiling lucifer.

In this steep zone of flint and forest,
green stardust, jungle-clarified,
Mantur, the valley, cracks like a living lake
or a new level of silence.

Come to my very being, to my own dawn,
into crowned solitudes.

The fallen kingdom survives us all this while.

And on this dial the condor’s shadow
cruises as ravenous as would a pirate ship.

Interstellar eagle, vine-in-a mist.

Forsaken bastion, blind scimitar.

Orion belt, ceremonial bread.

Torrential stairway, immeasurable eyelid.

Triangular tunic, pollen of stone.

Granite lamp, bread of stone.

Mineral snake, rose of stone.

Ship-burial, source of stone.

Horse in the moon, stone light.

Equinoctial quadrant, vapor of stone.

Ultimate geometry, book of stone.

Iceberg carved among squalls.

Coral of sunken time.

Finger –softened rampart.

Feather-assaulted roof.

Mirror splinters, thunderstorm foundations.

Thrones ruined by the climbing vine.

The blood-flecked talon’s law.

Gale at a standstill on a slope.

Still turquoise cataract.

Patriarchal chiming of the sleepers.

Manacle of subjugated snows.

Iron tilting toward statutes.

Storm inaccessible and closed.

Puma paws, bloodstone.

Towering shadow, convocation of snows.

Night hoisted upon fingers and roots.

Window if the mists, heartless dove.

Nocturnal foliage, icon of thunderclaps.

Cordillera spine, oceanic roof.

Architecture of stray eagles.

Sky rope, climax of the drone.

Blood level, constructed star.

Mineral bubble, moon of quartz.

Andean serpent, amaranthine brow.

Dome of silence, unsullied home.

Sea bride, cathedral timber.

Branch of salt, black-winged cherry tree.

Snowcapped teeth, chill thunder.

Scarred moon, menacing stone.

Hair of the cold, friction of wind.

Volcano of hands, dark cataract.

Silver wave. Destination of time.

Stone within stone, and man, where was he?
Air within air, and man, where was he?
Time within time, and man, where was he?
Were you also the shattered fragment
of indecision, of hollow eagle
which, through the streets of today, in the old tracks,
through the leaves of accumulated autumns,
goes pounding at the soul into the tomb?
Poor hand, poor foot, and poor, dear life…
The days of unraveled light
in you, familiar rain
falling on the feast-day banderillas,
did they grant, petal by petal, their dark nourishment
to such an empty mouth?
Famine, coral of mankind,
hunger, secret plant, root of the woodcutters,
famine, did your jagged reef dart up
to those high, side-s;ipping towers?

I question you, salt of the highways,
show me the trowel; allow me, architecture,
to fret stone stamens with a little stick,
climb all the steps of air into the emptiness,
scrape the intestine until I touch mankind.
Macchu Picchu, did you lift
stone above stone on a groundwork of rags?
coal upon coal, at the bottom, tears?
Fire-crested gold, and in that gold, the bloat
Dispenser of this blood?

Let me have back the slave you buried here!
Wrench from these lands the stale bread
of the poor, prove me the tatters
on the serf, point out his window.
Tell me how he slept when alive,
whether he snored,
his mouth agape like a dark scar
worn by fatigue into the wall.
That wall, that wall! If each stone floor
weighed down his sleep, and if he fell
beneath them, as if beneath a moon, with all that sleep!

Ancient America, bride in her veil of sea,
your fingers also,
from the jungle’s edges to the rare height of gods,
under the nuptial banners of light and reverence,
blending with thunder from the drums and lances,
your fingers, your fingers also –
that bore the rose in mind and hairline of the cold,
the blood-drenched breast of the new crops translated
into the radiant weave of matter and adamantine hollows –
with them, with them, buried America, were you in that great depth,
the bilious gut, hoarding the eagle hunger?
Through a confusion of splendor,
through a night made stone let me plunge my hand
and move to beat in me a bird held for a thousand years,
the old and unremembered human heart!
Today let me forget this happiness, wider than all the sea,
because man is wider than all the sea and her necklace of islands
and we must fall into him as down a well to clamber back with
branches of secret water, recondite truths.
Allow me to forget, circumference of stone, the powerful
the transcendental span, the honeycomb’s foundations,
and from the set square allow my hand to slide
down a hypotenuse of hairshirt and salt blood.

When, like a horseshoe of rusting wing-cases, the furious condor
batters my temples in the order of flight
and his tornado of carnivorous feathers sweeps the dark dust
down slanting stairways, I do no see the rush of the bird,
nor the blind sickle of his talons –
I see the ancient being, the slave, the sleeping one,
blanket his fields – a body, a thousand bodies, a man, a thousand
women swept by the stable whirlwind, charred with rain and night,
stoned with a leaden weight of statuary:
Juan Splitstones, son of Wiracocha,
Juan Coldbelly, heir of the green star,
Juan Barefoot, grandson to the turquoise,
rising to birth with me, as my own brother.

Arise to birth with me, my brother.

Give me your hand out of the depths
sown by your sorrows.
You will not return from these stone fastnesses.
You will not emerge from subterranean time.
Your rasping voice will not come back,
nor your pierced eyes rise from their sockets.

Look at me from the depths of the earth,
Tiller of fields, weaver, reticent shepherd,
groom of totemic guanacos,
mason high on your treacherous scaffolding,
iceman of Andean tears,
jeweler with crushed fingers,
farmer anxious among his seedlings,
potter wasted among his clays –
bring to the cup of this new life
your ancient buried sorrows.
Show me your blood and your furrow;
say to me: here I was scourged
because a gem was dull or because the earth
failed to give up in time its tithe of corn or stone.
Point out to me the rock on which you stumbled,
the wood they used to crucify your body.
Strike the old flints
to kindle ancient lamps, light up the whips
glued to your wounds throughout the centuries
and light the axes gleaming with your blood.

I come to speak for your dead mouths.

Throughout the earth
let dead lips congregate,
out of the depths spin this long night to me
as if I rode at anchor here with you.

And tell me everything, tell chain by chain,
and link by link, and step by step;
sharpen the knives you kept hidden away,
thrust them into my breast, into my hands,
like a torrent of sunbursts,
an Amazon of buried jaguars,
and leave me cry: hours, days ad years,
blind ages, stellar centuries.

And give me silence, give me water, hope.

Give me the struggle, the iron, the volcanoes.

Let bodies cling like magnets to my body.

Come quickly to my veins and to my mouth.

Speak through my speech, and through my blood.