By Margaret Van Every


man in PreColumbian Art


You want to think

you nailed a bargain—

swindled the Incan

or Mayan, the ignoramus

by the side of the road who

haggled away his country’s

patrimony for a pittance

and never knew it.

You pride yourself in thinking

you’re the master swindler,

prizing your purchase more

for its being ancient, illicit.

You know pre-Columbian

when you spot it.

No mistaking antiquity

in the pot’s charred surface

or the stained, ragged doll

of mummy cloth and corn husk.

You could not be wrong.

In a market near Cuzco

I hit upon my pre-Columbian

find—a small Andean flute

crafted of human bone, he said.

There was some kind of comfort

in this relic from a lost kingdom,

comfort in complicity, his and mine.

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