The Day After Death with Seņor de Qoyllurrit’y

In the environs of Cuzco, Peru, between 1780 and 1783, a vision of Jesus as a “magic” child playmate of shepherd boy and later of his crucifixion was seen by Andean Indians and also “verified” by Spanish priests.

These visions were accompanied by a holy light, called Qoyllurrit’y in Ketchua, the local language still spoken by 18 million Andean Indians today.

In honor of this vision, the festival of “Señor de Qoyllurrit’y” was established. It takes place each year in the high Andes on a glacial plain underneath a high peak, an Apu. Young men and women aspiring to shaman status spend all night on the highest glacier and return to the camp at sunrise carrying ice blocks carved during their vigil on their backs. These sculptures represent the stars as they reflect the suns first rays at dawn.

Similar festival sites have been used for ritual human sacrifice from pre-Columbian days to the present.

Apu Father,
Son of Light,
A man died.

A man died
As I lay
Awake in my tent
On a high mountain plain
Mud and snow
Wrapped in down and gortex
Listening to the drums and flutes
Of 70,000 Andean villagers
A man died
On your glacial Altar
Seventeen thousand feet high
He of 200 young shamans
Seeking ‘Alto Misoyoq’
Seeking ‘Wisdom’,
To bring honor
To bring healing
To the Andean people.

Señor de Qoyllurrit’y
Apu Father,
Son of Light
Did you love him best?
This brave Indian,
Living under the Hooves
Of San Diego’s Descendants
Daring initiate
In Llama pelts and
Great Bear mask
Hiding his servant skin
Christ the Victor’s
Sacrifice is an old story here.
Children are still found frozen
Cross-legged on icy peaks
Smiling adolescents with broken skulls
Tied to stone altars
From Chile to Columbia
An old story
A new story
Earthquakes and floods
Famines and AIDS
The God’s demand
Then and now.

Earlier that night, initiate,
I saw you climb
The last thousand feet
To the highest glacier
Leaving your son,
Your daughter
Your mother, your father
Your village
To wait
To pray
To dance and drum
For you
Bear in human disguise
Who would dare the slippery slopes
With acrobatic feats
Talent stretched
As thin as ice.

We wait
70,000 strong,
Frozen and sleepless
With harp and flute,
With drumming
Desperate fists
On throbbing skins
Ecstatic thrums
With chanting
Keening and crying
While you plant your cross
Fire your flares
Handstand and cartwheel
While you dance
With such exhilarating speed
Lit only by the Southern cross
In a sky of such extravagant beauty
Icy clarity
In the vacuum cold.
The thin deep crack
In the dark crevasse
To all but you.
Your silent scream
Your blind slide
Your body


Señor de Qoyllurrit’y
Apu Father,
Son of Light
Each year for generations
It is so.
Man’s need
God’s greed
The promise
Of messiah

Your long pilgrimage
Your climb of honor
Robbing you of
Gentle breath
Fueling competition–
Male struggle
For the high ground
Prime place on
Priestly ladder–
Now over.
Your initiation complete.
No ice to cut
From glacial canyon
No star needed
to catch the
Dawning sun.
You shine for us now
We and the Gods,
Lord of Qoyurriti,
Sing your praises.

The tradition of sacrifice
Is old here.
Older than
White Jesus
Scapegoat archetype.
Brought by Missionaries
Mythic support for
Spaniard Conquistadors
In Search of gold
And converts.

That myth lives on
One man must die
To save the rest.
I fear
In your group
Of brave men,
Shaman acolytes,
Coyote inspired
One with
Less faith
More resolve
To choose
Life now,
Not eternal
His gentle push
Did you in.

I came
4000 miles on the condor—
American Airlines—
To see your high act
On the Royal Inca Trail
To Machu Pichu.
I came to learn you Shaman ways
Initiations on sacred Inca grounds.
I came to learn
The mysterious meditations
Of reciprocity
At Sacsaywuaman and Pisac
Ollantaytambo and Cuzco.
And accept the visions of
Its ceremonial 12 steps
(Not a program here)
An ancient typology
Class and caste
Twelve Great Families
Who pick the Inca
At the Temple of Wiraqocha
Like Twelve Disciples
Picked Jesus in Jerusalem

I came to find
The Mother cave
And her Daughters’ niches
And found too
the more sacred cave
The Temple of Kuyas
Cave of caves
Deeper than Earth Mother
Deeper than Earth Father
That place
Where reciprocity
Begins and ends
And begins again.
Exchanging selves
In each dark niche
Each sacred site
Exchanging energies
With the bloodless cosmos
Monster God.

I came to find
The Inca Phallus
And climbed
Up the dirt trail
Stone path
Staircase and ladder
The cave of transformation
Anatomy forgotten
In the blinding flashing light
Fire stabbing at the pinnacle
Naked on the rock
A golden tree at our belly
Lightning brothers

I came too
To earn the right
To follow your death trail
To Qoyllurrit’y.

Dead one!
Best loved
Of Lord de Qoylluritt’y
Father Apu
Child of Light
Did you begin
Your pilgrimage
That last day
With fateful knowledge
Of its end?
Portent from those
Who read the herbs
and stars.
Why then
Did you climb
Your deadly track
And step
More gracefully
Than the rest
Your nimble dance
Attracting deadly favor?
Did you think
Your blood was
Thicker than the rest?
A quick Polycythemia fix
Helping short term.
There would be no long term.

Earlier that morning
I found your footprints
At the little church
The sacred trailhead
An Andean version
of Fantasia’s pilgrimage.
The trail marked
By 12 crosses.
One for each station of
That older cross.
Mirror of Jerusalem’s
Bloody trail
Earthly symbol
Of human pain.

Each pilgrim
On that high windy trail
Prayed at each cross
Dropped a stone at each station.
While a village band played
Drums, trumpets,
A wooden harp.
I too drop my stone
Fell on my knees
A deep bow
To the God of life
Giver of Oxygen
A prayer for breathe
For strength to record
The memory of
Your last climb
Your stunning slide
Your final scream
Deathly expiration.

Dead one!
Those prayers of mine
which did little for your life
(No changing your sacred path)
Changed mine.
For as I climbed higher
Less breath,
More faith
I found
My anthropologist
The little man
Who watches
Others dream
From the corner
Of the frame
Was not all
I brought
To each station
To each cross.
I bowed my head too deep
I Kissed the ground too long
For him alone.
I brought my offering

My confession
To that altar
To commemorate,
Bless and expiate
My own betrayal
At St. Patrick’s,
New York holy site.
A year ago.

My back
An agony
My life,
At crossroads,
Like yours
My pain-dimmed spirit
By Jehovah,
Historical god
Of my people.
Desperate and searching
I chose Saint Patrick’s
Holy site
I chose
Idol worship
Scapegoat myth
The suffering son
Forgiving mother
Her face
A blessed opiate
Mattering more
than race.
When Mary, western Quan Yin,
Held out her hands
I took the pill
Under my tongue
And made my final choice:
(Operation, the risk of death
Separation, the risk of life)
I took her love
Her strength

The last lines of pilgrims
Pray to the 12th cross,
the last station
I among them
Enter the glacial valley
Intent on
Son sacrifice.
We breath slowed climbers
Met by hovering women
With healing Herb
A church overflowing
With prayer and candles
Sanctuary of stifled wills
Reciprocity redefined
Eternal life for living death.
(Only your identity
In question.)
Cosmic credit
Sacred futures.
Good for three wishes
In Mary’s market.
The Indians ask for:
“A truck.
A house.
Their land returned.”
I ask for:
“No more pain.”
“Another chance.”
And a last wish
The pursuit of…”
But poised at happiness
I stopped……
Diverted by the candle’s flame
Robbing oxygen from revolution
The intensity of dependence
The priest turning
The Indian upturning faces
Like flowers on the Nile
Catching Osiris ejaculate
While you dance
On the glacial altar
The dance of death
Called sacrifice.

Dear initiate
My final wish
The legacy of
My sad
Sacred chains
Your sad
Sacred death
Is this:

The Day after death
I, blind Samson,
Betrayed and betrayer
Newly chained
To the altar
Of the Cuzco cathedral
The celebration
of Corpus Christi.
In the corner
A stone apart
The ancient Stone
Of ancient religions
A stone
The shape of an Egg
Glowing like
An Inca Messiah
In the stone’s center
A serpent
A snake alive
Coiled around
The temple of Winnacocha,
That ancient temple
Where twelve families
Choose the future.
Their prophesy
Louder than
A thousand Hail Marys
More powerful even
Than the great Condor
Ancient agent
of Human Sacrifice
Their prophesy
“Four men and four women
Glowing like the rainbow
Straining against the pillars
Straining toward the sun
A great flower awakening
Its great blossom unfolding
Flocks of ruby hummingbirds
Landing lightly on its petals
Sucking deep
From its nectared center”
Their prophesy
The ancient consciousness
Of a new Messiah
Transforming guide
For the new

Listen closely
From your cold tomb
Your place of honor.
Did you die
To be betrayed once more?
First Golgotha
Now Peru
Or can we old Samsons,
Betrayed and betrayer,
Transform ourselves
With drum and flute
Rattle and chant
Our own pain
Make the crossing
Without human altar
Grasp the stone
Forgotten in the corner
Listen to the serpent
Coiled in its center
Awake the cathedral
With new music
Seize the pillars
Strain our muscles
Crack the columns
Hurl the falling idols
The legends and the rulebooks
To the ground.
Crossing over to
Honor the light touch
The tiny bird
The delicate flower
The drop of nectar
The clear sweet
Taste of our future

Or, Initiate!
Dead one!
Did you die
For the ancient Lords–
Señor de Qoyllurrit’y
Apu Father,
Son of Light–

Did you die
For Inca pride?

Did you die
For us?

If you had danced
The night through
Past your deadly rival
Leaping over
The dark crevasse
The silent scream
Deadly expiration
And, shivering,
Ice baptized,
See the Golden disk
Turn the dark mountain
To a blazing castle
Cut the stars from heaven
Bring them
Down the mountain
On your back
To the people
Would you still
Hearing the drum and flute
With fresh ears
Give those glistening diamonds
Galactic ice
To the priests?
Would you die again
To lick their wafers?
Chained and blinded
by the Goat.
Would you die
Craving extreme unction
Like the alcoholics
at Boston City
The cross,
The star,
The crescent moon,
The lotus,
More than life?