Academic journal article Transnational Literature

An Extract from the Verse Novel, Sonqoqui

Academic journal article Transnational Literature

An Extract from the Verse Novel, Sonqoqui

Article excerpt

(i) The Offering

Inca Period, AD 1500

We stand in line from tallest to smallest.

I am a head higher than Eldest Brother

and level with Father's shoulder, but

I keep my eyes low

to the ground. Mother's fraught touch,

oiling my hair this morning: Daughter, she said,

Fear not but carry this always, tucked

inside my tunic,

now tied with a twist of her hair. Dark

the weave dug up in darkness, the wrap

of the cord once mine, and itchy

this flea on my toe.

The men have come. Lowly, I watch

the broad flat tops of their polished feet.

Father on one side, Littlest Sister at

the end of the line.

Yes, Littlest Sister has been blessed

with great beauty-Let it not-I hold my breath.

Salt sharpens the beak of my eyes.

Let it not be, by

the gods, Littlest Sister. Regally

the Inca walks our length, walks and

stops in front of Littlest Sister. My

breathless bird-escapes.

Can't help it-look up-imprint of Mother

in darkened doorway-the Inca with extended finger,

tilting the chin of Littlest Sister as if sizing

up a corner stone.

Shadows spin like eels in water. Mother's

hand bunched at the waist, her time-worn face

shut down. I blink. Stand tall. Look straight

down the line toward

the Inca. Asmoulder I hold the Imperial gaze.

The one with the feathers sinks his eyes

like a snake through my body. Equal I

stand on holy ground.

Exact his hand shall climb my shoulder.

Intact my Father shall bow his head.

(ii) Meeting La Niña del Reyo

in the voice of Dr. María Constanza Ceruti1

Her tomb so very narrow in diameter

and so deep, we cannot reach

her without harm unless one of the team

volunteers to go in head-first

while we hold his feet-closing

his mouth against her musky scent,

the bundle cradled against his chest

we struggle hard to haul them up-

just like a birth delivering this

five-hundred-year-old child to

surface light-silence

falls over us as we

behold her face:

earth-slicked, slightly charred,

the womb-lit ground surpassed,

time a lightning-flood

unexpected surge of love

exact moment she enters my heart.

Lightning-girl-child are your bones

child-sister and chromosomes

sister I never had touching mine

or daughter through chrome-lit time

o little daughter however strangely

in the silver-rimmed laboratory we've unexpected symmetries! …

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