Listen to 'Yana Phuyu'
From Room of Thieves, Salt Publishing, 2013
First published in Mslexia
Runner up in the Mslexia Women's Poetry Competition 2011
Yana Phuyu means dark clouds in Quechua; it is the collective name for the Pachatira, dark cloud constellations within Mayu (the Milky Way) as seen from the southern hemisphere. The shapes of the Pachatira are seen in Quechuan culture as the shadows of animals that have come to drink from the river of the Milky Way.
He explains that we see it all wrong,
that the creatures we have drawn
dot-to-dot all about the universe
are the hand-me-downs
of men wedded to the straight line;
that we have been seeing it all backwards,
white on black – I mean who
draws white on black, aside from tailors
with their toothy chalk wheels,
teachers drawing more straight lines?
So, the stars I have left behind
are not real here – there is no hunter
to protect me at night, no steady
plough share to lean on, my lion
is not a lion, I am not a lion –
He points to Mayu, the milky river
that flows above us. One-by-one
as my eyes fill, they come to drink,
darkening its waters with their shadows,
the Yana Phuyu, each Pachatira
a spill of fluid night – Mach'acuay
the serpent, Hanp'atu – toad, Yacana
– the llama and her calf. At her fetlocks,
Atoq – the fox – I see his red eyes,
align them with my own, blink, see.