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Sonnets from Peru

My First Time

This is my first time. I couldn’t stand
her trembling hands—that nervous energy
with nowhere left to flow (I need to help
myself before helping others, just give me time).
Up here, the clouds are mine;
I let them flood their valleys at sunrise,
let forms do what they will. I’ll pass into
a pastless place, where mountains ripple like
the treads of hiking boots, and rows of pixels
promise something like the thing itself.
A baby cries; I slide the blind
To see white wings bouncing against the wind,
and wish that sometimes we had gone
on trips like this: to wake and watch the dawn.

Morning in Cusco

I’m letting her figure out what she wants
as shadows pass over mountains and trees.
The morning sun presses against my back;
Dogs fight (quite beautiful for strays)
under rust-orange rooftops, where juice
is squeezed on every corner, and
an axe is halving slabs of wood
in the distance, outlined against the horizon,
relics recall the landscapes that formed them.
What if we said our favourite place in the
world was home? She smiles and tells me:
“Life is just a fragment of time waiting
to be decorated”, as I wonder
what self-help video she’s nicked that from.

Morning Hike

A cockerel’s crow is the only birdsong
I can name: alarm clock of the world!
Whose call wakes blind men from their sleep
to search with sticks through empty streets.
I pause every ten steps (or so), pretend
to know each flower in their concrete beds.
Jamie and Matt slow down, listen and wait,
They know this altitude intoxicates.
Atop the hill, who should we pay our respects to?
Dolls sat in their altars of gaudy gold?
Or stones stacked underneath, so closely spaced
you couldn’t fit a pinpoint through its gaps?
My hands trace unwritten histories there,
As church bells ring throughout the square.


One day I’ll speak of him in the past tense,
and think of how he’d love the stars tonight,
slowly revealed behind the evening’s clouds,
and showed me every constellation there.
I wish I could still be that boy who looked up
and asked: “how come the stars twinkle like that?”
who saw these streaks of glowing white-gold rock
as great ancestors, sailing through the sky.
But huddled here we have no place for words;
content to rest our necks and eyes skywards
and watch the stars fall earthwards, until
our vacancy became infinity.
We shared this timeless dome of dying lights
connecting each through the unchanging night.


Carlos watches their knees buckle beneath
too many packs (he knows them all by name),
sensing a sadness behind their black eyes,
whilst we balance rock stacks above the pass.
He wants to make us see again; to hear
the foreign words pass through our lips like some
forgotten spell, and feel the presence
presiding over these savage mountains.
With tang of coca leaves against my tongue,
We hear a mother’s story to her son
who stutters, turns his face away, and stops,
speaking with his eyes tracing the rocks:
“If you still have your mother in your life,
please, tell her you love her before she dies.”

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