I’m on Machu Picchu among three thousand
tourists, traveling with you, who struggles
to define devotion. Or so it seems.
A woman in black tights and high-heeled
hiking boots sashays across the ruins,
smartphone held aloft, capturing
the Temple of the Condor. Its soaring
granite wings. You wince. Your feet hurt
after our trek along the Inca Trail,
up the Gringo Killer, the final hurdle
before the Sun Gate. We climb
to one of the temples, contemplate llamas,
mist and serrated peaks that seem indomitable.
You joke about a Temple of the Suicide.
Guides tell fairy tales, and we listen. Stories
about virgins gathered from Andean villages
and held here. What Hiram Bingham did.
Stolen artifacts transported to Yale. Nobody
knows what happened in this place
before the centuries of abandonment.
Men and women and children likely lived here.
Leaders fair or cruel. Food was consumed.
Thatched roofs gave shelter.
There were nightmares and celebrations.
But no writing. No stories left behind.
I press my ear against the limestone
of somebody’s long-ago house
as if I could hear the past, hear our future.
I look at you, thinking how difficult
it is to read another person.