Lament and Creation, a Poem by Luis Nieto Miranda

Andean Notch Flutes

An electromagnet for tourists, Cuzco also has a long history of intellectual and artistic life.  Among its brilliant stars of the last century was the internationally celebrated native son and poet Luis Nieto Miranda.  Cuzco Eats takes pleasure in presenting here a translation of a poem of his from his work Charango–El Romancero Cholo exploring the local instrument that is neither Spanish nor Indian.  This poem grows between the Spanish guitar and indigenous flutes and drums at the same time Nieto calls it a yaraví, or lament,  an indigenous song form that was important in Inca music and memory.

Though a strongly political and committed poet, Nieto soars in this work that brings together his upbringing as part of a middle class in the regional town of Sicuani, where the Alpaca wool boom created by the railroad brought prosperity, with his secondary education and later life in the City of Cuzco.  Nieto rebels against the Eurocentric Hispanism of the national elite.  Like other Latin American writers of his time, her exalts the middle space, that of the Cholo, who others would label an unstable trickster.  But in Nieto, the Cholo becomes the position of value and life.

Arpa Andina
Andean Harp

The vividness of this lament steals the music from sound alone, between the various instruments of an ensemble that is neither that of the elite salons nor of rural, native communities, and makes it the dagger that creates a cosmos.



A flute weaves wreathes
of tears for defeat.
In my blood’s tree
perch two jailed larks.

Drunk on sky and stars
a dove lies pierced.
On memory’s edge
poppies fly apart.

Song trembles in the harps
and flags through lips.
In a stare’s light
my heart’s made bare

Some distant absence
blooms in all eyes.
Masked pain ignites.
The guitar sheds tears.

Musty kerchiefs talk.
Laughter falls mute.
On a tear’s path
a rose slowly dies.


Blood of deep loves
float like a flag.
Trees stand silenced.
The birds start to cry.

Song burns in looks
and flames on all lips . . .
With dusk’s carnation
larks kill themselves.

From night’s violets
a slight cry breaks out . . .
(How the silence of rhymes
saddens all the nests.)


The guitar’s outcry
burns all shadow.
Wind lifts to the sky
the poppies’ lament.


(Night moans outside,
wounded like a wolf.
Cruel daggers opened
A hundred stars of dawn.)

Luis Nieto Miranda

(translated by David Knowlton)

Panpipes and Drums
Panpipes and Drums
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