23 April 2005

Earth's Ends II

Many of the poems in Andrew Kaufman's Earth's Ends dwell on the squalor if not the suffering of the poor in Southeast Asia and South America. But in this one he presents, hauntingly, a different end of earth:

The Observatory on the Altiplano, Hours from La Paz

Just as it is summer there when winter here,
to study the stars they did not look up, but down,
into a cistern built to reflect the heavens —
the sky was too vast
in the thin air

for those who would study the future
in the permafrost of the Milky Way
to crane upward for hours against the terrible
night winds. The emperor's statue stands
nearby, head hunched forward as if he had no neck,
shoulders squared in the posture
of a tyrannical American mayor. His eyes are rectangles,
mouth a straight line, nose gone. His hair

is bird shit and lichen, his legs covered with wind-
smothed hieroglyphs, the language
undeciphered. At this altitude a pinprick
of blackness opened in my head,
threatening to spill, like ink. Across the high plain
scrub grass glowed and flared

in the late sun. The driver
who brought me to this wind-
blasted ruin, hours from La Paz,
nothing between but altiplano,
stepped from his taxi again.
He measured what daylight was left
against the dangers of night roads.
Their names lost, I stared for the last time
into the faces of gods
eroding on what palace walls still stood,
their features open to the prophecies of the stars
and the judgements of the winds.

— Andrew Kaufman, Earth's Ends, 62.


At 21 October, 2005 19:53, Anonymous Andrew Kaufman said...

I'm flattered and happy to come across these two poems of mine on your blog. I worked especially hard on them!

With thanks and best wishes--

Andrew Kaufman


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