The Laughing Monkeys of Gravity
Isaac on the Altiplano

Say there are high cordilleras sharp as glass
against a black sky, a country of lost cities
with the ghosts of children playing on the slopes
of the shining day, places where air is as thin
as a knife blade and breath is locked in stone.

Down below, it is holiday time, with dancers
in flower hats and shawls, women clapping hands,
and men playing flutes; there is chicha, too,
the smack of it, along with the graceful prows
of bundle-reed boats on the waters of the Great Lake.

Isaac waits, having come ahead of his father,
impatient to hear the sound of the wind.
Isaac hates the damp cellar of the Andes,
the cobbled keep of the mines; like his father,
he hates the Aymara villages, with their bent backs
against the stiff sides of impossible peaks . . . .

And now the sky is near enough to touch;
he turns to watch the old man struggle up behind him
much too slowly, a bird entering darkness
too heavy for wings or the lift of song.

"Here I am," he says to his stiff-legged father,
a pale and brittle figure gasping for breath.

Isaac kneels to be blessed; he laughs
while the gods, like butterflies, converge on the spot,
their yellow wings beating like slow hearts,
their empty veins drinking his love.