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The High Andes

Jordan Lee Schnee (2020)

in the mountains to the west we rolled illegally drunk on the day of the referendum in cactus needle and purple dust reciting strains of poetry to earn our ration of sour corn beer how many kinds of insects and worms 

inside the open seething tanks how do you say scorpion in aymara will it ever rain are we in love the questions crowded and pressed behind our eyes could have asked after my mouth my gums my palate had been flooded with the sticky chicha but then again what more could i ask of the woman

at the next hotel was doing the washing outside our room hanging sheets in the sun and they dry within the hour the whole year round so little atmosphere in the cheap hotel with the spanish colonial architecture and in the courtyard an empanada factory all women and always the cheap rooms windowless well there was an air shaft and it led into the bathroom and then i had to push a chair up against the wall and climb in thru the window feet-first because i lost my key in the spermy blue water of the pachachaca bridge over the world in the half-abandoned monastery i saw 

hallucinated saints crumbling out of the walls eating a frozen sugar stick and waiting for the bus in the dust and the people looked at me strange until i went into the dark of the museum and the attendant turned on the lights and made me lemonade from lemons she had stolen from the estate’s trees and boiling the water always boil the water she says mixing in spoonful after spoonful of sugar from her bag i first smelt the dead dog on the road up to the estancia and then heard the buzz of the flies and the crunch of the maggots before i finally saw it and i try to pick some of the avocadoes but think i could get shot respect the hierarchy 

of the hot setting sun warm post-day asphalt of the vinegar-scented spring and smelt that city in the south where allerton once led willing lee and fucked him all day leaving him on the bed at dusk asking him for a few quarters to go drink lukewarm rum and flirt with the night at the bar on the corner smells

like cemetery flower shop where we steal lilacs and the mangrove trees trunk up out of the graves and a few years later the fountain truncated by cast-iron fence and we drinking gourd after gourd of yerba mate the high court lurking behemoth of marble the noble transvestites on the corner profiting 

from the european-style pedestrian-only area the train derails i descend serene get my demagnetized ticket refunded use the money to buy over-sugared sweets at the station kiosk what’s next up the hill to the park where couples have gyrated and humped on the whitewashed rotting wood benches year after year the woman always on top wearing tight white clothing the men lie back dark hats pulled low over their eyes a moaning

three days i convulsed and vomited clear liquid into the soapstone sink under pile of mute-colored rough wool blankets dustily sleeping 30-hour sections crawling out for sunlight and hydration salts then cured i went to the park with the poets beside the cloudy eye of the inland sea and drank cheap cane liquor in ritual revival circle under the obelisk and stabbed at the atmosphereless night with fresh glut of stunted white blood cells

rafted by possibility of altolago that is to say the possibility of looking all around and seeing only water on the horizon and is this a lake or some sinister tongue of the ocean shot up fresh thru the earth like when the doctor irrigates the wound with saline solution and looks you in the eye for rabies she poking at your foot bones yes fractured smearing you with salves

white milk of sunscreen it’s hot with no ozone to shield one from the ultraviolence of the rays and my nose now red like a north-european drinker’s the alien fish stare back at me from their dusty cases taxidermied and swimming alive across the street all the half-dead stands selling rotting fruit the papayas like pickled fetuses in wide glass tubes peeled and quartered pink

licuado maker introduces me to her daughter i say i will come back later and yes i’ve got a mind to marry and go buy brown liquor and homemade sugared-up wine from the hillside shop they pour out a taste from the blue vats pregnant with alcohol get drunk alone in the hotel room candle burning into the dirty ceramic floor louder than would seem possible

the modal melody thru the mountains rumbles darkly ayacucho death’s corner lightheaded alive trying to buy candles cheese bread olives this is not easy the code is distorted like quechua spreads afield into its dialects far easier to drink chicha sitting on blue plastic bucket in a cloud of flies they give me a second vinegary ladleful i know to ask for it they look like nurses and i know 

my mother-in-law died last week but otherwise uneventful murmurs night-nurse sleeping on pull-down bed in upper reaches of the hospital pager buzzes and she staggering into operating room and realizes she is barefoot how the intake surgeon wooed her then left her and what does she have left except row after row of books tacked to apartment walls and a box full of hand-knit scarves so she eats

cold fried chunks of llama meat at dusty highwayside bus stop and gritty homemade cheese crunch of fried broad beans in the dust we are the vegetables and she chews chews swallows and we live on and cross the border singing ay terrenal terrenal villazón el agua dulce

36 hours in the bus taking all our blue pills and then we walking in a spiral thru parque centenario our skin sucking at the lowland humidity we gorging on fruits off the wild trees medlars and cumquats and they grow right out of the sidewalk pushing thru dirty white iron grating on windows here

to see the eclipse table full of four generations ago italian food in layers of meat paste cheese condensed tomato and other savory goo beer from big brown plastic four liter bottles and no space at the windows to watch the moon-play all the women press with stylized thick-soled shoes and swooping legs walk on

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