Birth at the Ruins || Mary Buchinger

We’re walking on a path through Ingapirca—
Cañari ruins crowned by Inca remnants—when we notice
below, on a sweeping green plain, a llama giving birth.

The birth, like most, was improbable and awkward—
a wet messy success producing a knobby-kneed cria
pumping down hard on the earth to find its legs.

My brothers, visiting from the States, are new
to this part of the world where I lived and worked.
I brought them here to see the colossal stone blocks

cut to join so closely a single piece paper couldn’t slip
between—precise elliptical walls positioned just so
to catch the solstice. Our guide explains all this

as clouds suddenly swallow the sun and we pull
our scarves tighter. This caprice of the gods, he says,
drew ancient peoples to this place close to the heavens

—the better to study and appease. We stop
to eat sandwiches and one brother observes,
We’re all over thirty now, right. But no, not me.

Not yet. Their baby sister, I look away, towards
the mewing cria. Will I have to watch everyone die?
The Cañari and Inca had their ways of keeping track.

A stone tablet sits at the entrance of this poorly-kept ruin,
twenty-eight indentations of various depths in its surface
that fill with rainwater, something about the reflection

of the constellations to keep time—no one really knows.
We climb into the back of a pickup truck and twirl down
the mountain; our driver, in a hurry to get home, spins out

at every hairpin turn. I stand with my brothers whom I love,
arms stretched grabbing hold of the stone-pocked roof,
I look straight ahead, face into the wind.

This was originally published in Fall 2017 edition of The Helix.


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