On the Edge of a Memory with Cuzco’s Luís Nieto Miranda

Cuzco’s celebrated poet, Luís Nieto Miranda draws on the traditions of romances to create a set of images of life in the Cuzco of his time. It was and is a place that still is very Andean and one sees that in his work.

Unlike the pastoral romanticism of English language literature where nature is a fount of morality, purity, and virtue for people to draw from, in Nieto nature is an actor. It ties his work not only to a place but literally to the land where a river is grandfather and the house is filled with life. But in that life, the life of nature, it is children laughing that make it come to full life.

The house in which a family lives stands in Nieto’s rural Sicuani, a province of Cuzco, is a model of the universe, not in the abstract but in life. It is a kind of mandala, but one that shifts and changes like a heart and lungs breathing in engagement with the rest of the world.

An Anglo reader will be tempted to see this poem as one saturated with the forgiving view of nostalgia. While it does have a nostalgic sense, still the notion of memory is different in the Andes where it is an act of continued belonging and engagement. Forgetting is a kind of death. People carry their significant others and their landscape with them in their memories (though in the poem I translate that as heart). That is a continued interaction though one is distant in time and space.

Romance of My Home on the Edge of Memory

How charming our home
made of song and silence
with trees along the side
of the wagon’s path.

Fiches wake it with
golden song to the dawn,
broad plain and heaven.
Clarity of light and joy.

The sun kisses it by day
as it draws down rays.
and on moonless nights
two thousand stars light it.

Its two gardens breathe
scent of mint and rosemary.
Sparrows and some sweet
yellow birds grace it

Doves are always there
under its white eaves
not a rumor of breeze or song
down its flower-clad paths.

Every afternoon, we five
young children lit the patio
surrounded by peach trees
on fire with our laughs.

A handful of songs
fell from the wind,
while in the tiles a breeze
fluttered its kerchief.

From the river that watched us
with its grandfatherly eyes
came an impish echo
of a Sicuani-style wayno.

Our home is so charming
that in order to see it closely
two wandering birds
held back their free flight.

Nothing is ever missing,
not an old love or a desire.
It even enjoys the love
of January’s rains.

How charming is our home
white of moon and stars.
Into its patio one day fell
a large chunk of sky.

From that day on it shone,
laughter and song by its path.
(If only it knew I carry it
in full flower in my heart)

Luís Nieto Miranda

(translated by David Knowlton)

Flowers, Door, and Eaves
Flowers, Door, and Eaves

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