[The final selection from my recently rediscovered 1995-96 notebook. This poem was apparently my attempt to combine boozy Bukowski with "Instruction Manual"-era John Ashbery. I don't remember writing it, so I must have been on a serious Bukowski bender.]
The View From Machu Picchu
Bartenders around here have no patience
for the usual hard-luck story
(how I emptied all the joint accounts
and left my wife and two year-old
(he's 5 now) and rode the bus a thousand miles
and ended here, a full-time drinker where
even the ocean has a nice foamy head)
so I usually tell the tale of my
youthful trip to Machu Picchu.
It means "City in the Clouds" I tell them
and they believe me.
I speak of the ride in an old steam train
on tracks that wind through green mountains
and sun-splashed valleys,
I speak of the grass on mountainsides bright
as the felt on a brand new pool table,
of the jungle path we walked, alive with
dangling vines and stinging flies,
of the ancient steps of crumbling stone,
of the rush to the summit and first sight
of ruins, a city of stone struggling out
of the earth, among the white-shrouded
mountains and the fog.
And I speak of the ancient stone corridors silent as
--not as death, no, but as a cemetery on a Tuesday
morning, where I walked in the footsteps of Incas.
And I speak of the holy chambers, the ancient sacrifice,
lurid tales of glassy knives and hearts extracted
beating and blood running like dirty water down the
priest's uplifted arm.
And I finish with a flourish, holding them rapt, describing
the moment I climbed the ruined wall and dangled my feet
off the edge of a two thousand-foot cliff and how a cloud
floated by far below. How I opened the bottle of tequila
I bought two weeks before in Juarez and how I drank til
my mouth overflowed and it rolled down my cheeks and
my neck and shirt and puddled
on the ancient stone. And how I finished the bottle
and tossed it from the mountaintop and ran along
the top of the wall singing and chanting in a language
I'd never known.
And a gray old biker, thick-bearded at the end of the bar
"Yeah, Mack-you Pick-you. I saw that on TV last night too."