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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 2: March 2020
Prose Poem: 590 words
By Lorette C. Luzajic

Ceviche

 
—After the painting La Plaza Mayor de Lima (1680) by Anonymous
Living is worth the effort if only because without life we could not read or imagine stories.
—Mario Vargas Llosa *

1. On Sunday morning, we went in search of Santa Rosa of Lima. I heard that her skull was kept enshrined for all to see, but when we arrived, the tomb was not open to the public. Rosa was feted for everything she had done for the poor, and pilgrims were standing at a well, dropping small scrolls of paper with prayers and wishes into the deep. Pink and red petals fluttered into oblivion below. Beside the well, you could buy all manner of real and plastic flowers, and rosaries; tiny, luminous figurines. An old woman with a bowler hat straight out of Clockwork Orange spreads her broad thighs under big layered skirts. Massive tubs promise pulque: what the hell, you say, it’s brunch. Her face is a maze of copper highways, her hands are filthy, scooping pale sludge into tumblers.

2. The pulpy mess is boozy and delicious. I have dreamed of Lima for a decade, imagined the yellow church facades and roasted guinea pigs. Here I am.

3. Lovers bough against the cement balustrade. We walk in stride, old friends, shadowed by stones, by the hidden stories of the city. Lima is gray and orange, ochre, khaki green. It is glazed and raw, at once a wound and a jewel.

4. La Punta, the point, the end of everything. Or at least, the end of a long taxi ride through Lima and its outskirts, through Todo Callao, all dust and crumbling concrete. Hungry dogs scavenge from heaps of refuse. Children kick at empty tin cans.

5. A wharf, a silver sea, a small and sinewy child with a stick and a strong fish flipping flapping fury against its fate on my plate. An old man in chaps ambles past, with a limp and a swagger, jangling silver waves, hoping for a fare for his weary mare.

6. At The Point, at those seaside comida houses, locals with filthy lucre and fat gringa tourists like me suck back pisco sours. We spear slippery chunks of raw pescado, covered in lime, with little forks.

7. The rice is chubby and turmeric orange from the ajis amaryllis, the famous yellow peppers of Peru. I wrest open the shellfish, greedily slurp down clams and critters with beady eyes and a jiggle of spindly legs. Earlier, we hurtled up the mountain on a double decker, ducking flimsy, falling wires. We stood over the city. Fingers hooked into hovering clouds kept us from falling.

8. You are home and I am far away from home. Our friendship is a deep vein of this scarred soil. It transcends place and time. It was both chance, and chosen.

9. In the unforgiving Inca sun, we watch a slim and beautiful boy in green satin and gold embroidery fell a bull, the blood of both beasts watering the earth where they duelled. Later, we watched over the sea from the high cliffs at Miraflores, spilling memories as we walked and talked, watching them tumble down the world and into the waves.

10. We wandered, wine soaked, through the winding streets to find the Huaca Pucllana before my leaving. The ancient stones cut steppes in the dark. The dead sleep on, shrouded by sand and silence, fences. The small sacrifices sigh, turn in their graves, oblivious. It is my last night in Lima, this bruised city, these easy stars.



—From the poet’s latest book, Pretty Time Machine: ekphrastic prose poems (Mixed up Media, February 2020); appears here with her permission.

*Publisher’s Note: Quotation is from the Nobel Lecture by Mario Vargas Llosa, In Praise of Reading and Fiction (7 December 2010), Nobel Prize in Literature 2010.

 
 
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