by Robert Scotellaro
They are a hardy bunch that dwell in a remote Peruvian mountain village. I’ve been allowed in. The only outsider who has. Perhaps it is the confections I bring in the shapes of exotic animals they’ve never seen, in combination with my long blond hair they delight in running hands through. “Lla,” they say, which can mean: glorious, precarious, gregarious, flatulent… According to the way it is accented. The way the mouth wraps around each articulation, the way the face is in concert with what is spoken along with hand gestures. For there is only one word comprising their entire language. The word: Llama. They use every combination of its letters to great effect and are exceptional conversationalists. The poets there can wring your soul to tears with the power of their imagery and metaphors, their intimacy with the ineffable.
I have a lover there. Her name is Ama. During lovemaking she cries out, “L-l-l—lll—l!” I echo it back. It is a standard lustful reaction the villagers have here. Later, she recites poetry that moves me in indefinably profound ways. There are beats of silence in their language between the words/the letters. It is precise. Two seconds of silence instead of three can change the meaning, in some cases, disastrously. I said ma—la once with an inadequate amount of pauses and nearly lost my head.
Their shaman is a willowy fellow who uses his eyebrows and lip gestures when he speaks, so flexibly/so expressively, he is considered their scholar. His teachings are scripture. Ama has tutored me in properly addressing him as La- ma—la. The beats of silence, in this instance, are critical. He looks at me sometimes suspiciously, but he cured my “Frog’s thigh” as it translates in their language. A nasty bit of fungus that, thank heavens, doesn’t travel higher.
Occasionally I take the long journey down the mountain into town for supplies and have more specialized confections made. I’ve got a lover there too. Her name is Abigail. It’s refreshing not to be so careful with language and facial gestures. To lie there afterwards and talk freely. And, indeed, the conversations are adequate enough. But, Ml-a-mama—lamm! I sure do miss the poetry.