Cueva de las Manos
by Lorraine Caputo

Beneath a deep indigo sky
we travail a road through dry landscape
hard grasses, spiked shrubs tipped with frost,
brooks skimmed with ice fracturing
in the late dawn palely painting the clouds
magenta, gold, orchid,
distant polychrome mountains
fleetingly alpenglowed,
the morning star yet bright,
the creamy near-full moon already set
beyond a long plateau, beyond a field where
birds flock, solitary beings in the loneliness of this
Patagonian valley carved by ancient glaciers,
the rising sun yet tinting the pastel heaven,
shadows pooling in the deep folds of the earth,
ochre, bittersweet,
green, taupe.

We now cut across a more eastern plain
molded & scraped by glacial fingers

Grazing herds of tawny & white
guanaco against the tawny landscape
in the tawny light of morn

Down into the steep-walled canyon
tawny, white, faded purple,
eroded crags towering into the celestine sky

On the time-smoothed walls of a shallow cave,
beneath rock overhangs,
guanaco heavy with child gather around a
creamy full moon, millennia-old hands,
ochre, burgundy
bittersweet, cream
touch the stone

hands of a people
long gone … long forgotten
in the loneliness
of this Patagonian earth

CREDIT: “Cueva de las Manos” first appeared in the Zimbabwe-US journal Munyori Literary Journal (18 April 2014) and was reprinted in the author’s chapbook, Notes from the Patagonia (Chicago: dancing girl press, 2017).

PHOTO: “Hands at the Cuevas de las Manos upon Río Pinturas, near the town of Perito Moreno in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina” (Mariano, 2005).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this poem, “Cueva de las Manos,” during my visit to that site. It is the major Aónikenk indigenous archaeological site in all the Patagonia, on either side of the modern-day border (Chile-Argentina), and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cueva de las Manos is in the Cañadón del Río Pinturas, just off Argentina’s Ruta 40. (Find my coverage of it at this link in the guidebook I wrote about Argentina – Viva Travel Guides – Argentina, 2011).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lorraine Caputo is a documentary poet, translator, and travel writer. Her work appears in over 180 journals in Canada, the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa, as well as in 12 chapbooks of poetry – including Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014), Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017), and On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019). She also pens travel pieces, with stories appearing in the anthologies Drive: Women’s True Stories from the Open Road (Seal Press, 2002) and Far-Flung and Foreign (Lowestoft Chronicle Press, 2012), and travel articles and guidebooks. In March 2011, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada honored her verse. She has done over 200 literary readings, from Alaska to the Patagonia, and journeys through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. You may follow her Latin America Wander travels on Facebook and at latinamericawander.wordpresscom.

PHOTO: The author with a mico friend in Colombia’s Amazon jungle.