On the ladder of the earth, I clambered
through the atrocious thicket of forsaken forests
up to you, Macchu Picchu.
Lofty city of stone stairways:
Finally, a dwelling that the earth
had not concealed in her nightclothes.
In you, as in two parallel lineages,
the cradle of lightning and that of man
rocked together in the bristling wind.
Mother of stone, spindrift of the condors.
High reef of the dawn of humanity.
Trowel abandoned in primordial sand.
This was their home, this is the place:
Here the large grains of maize once swelled
and fell over and over, like roseate hail.
Here the golden wool of the vicuña was spun
to cover the loved ones—the barrows, the mothers,
the king, the worshippers, the warriors.
Here the feet of man found rest by night,
beside the talons of the eagle in the high
meat-strewn aeries, and at dawn
they stepped thunder-shod through the rarefied fog,
touching the soil and the stones
until they recognized them in the night or in death.
I gaze at the rags and the hands,
the trickle of water in the sonorous hollow,
the wall softened by the touch of a face
that with my eyes gazed at the earthly lanterns,
that with my hands oiled the vanished
planks: Because everything—clothing, skin, pots,
words, wine, loaves—
was gone, fallen into the earth.
And the air entered with its orange-blossom fingers
over all the sleeping dead:
a thousand years of air—months, weeks of air—
of azure wind on the iron cordillera
that was like a soft hurricane of footfalls
polishing this solitary precinct of rock.