Aug 312012

by Anne Whitehouse


After such conflict,

there is only this quiet space,

not a bridge, but a separation, like a moat,

between what cannot be, and what is.


Past a grassy knoll, in the heart

of the labyrinth’s circuit,

sits the ancient, jagged stone of Mother Earth

in a pool formed by the spill of water

forever flowing from her rocky eye.


The twisting journey of reflection

leads each soul in single file

along the path of collective memory

bordered by thousands of identical stones.


Here every eye-shaped stone

is inscribed with a name and date,

even if names and dates are a way

not to remember, but to forget

what part in the fight each one took.


Those strangers with dark, wrinkled faces

and bowler hats, their legs bowed

as if they’d just stepped off a ship

into the fogs of the coastal capital,

and not traveled down from distant highlands

where the air is thin and cold and hard to breathe,

and legacies of violence live on side by side.


It wasn’t so much what they’d come to find

as what they’d come to lose—

that instinctive fear, like an animal’s,

giving off a harsh scent.

Knowing that their grief

at last can speak its name.


A note about the events that inspired “The Eye that Cries”

“Organizers and militants of Sendero Luminoso, or the Shining Path, Peru’s notorious guerrilla movement, waged armed conflict from the early 1980s until the mid- 1990s. By then, the government had captured and jailed much of Sendero’s top leadership. The conflict claimed almost 70,000 lives and destroyed and displaced entire communities. Both Senderistas and the army conducted massacres…..The vast majority of those who lived in terror and with terror were indigenous peasants of the Peruvian highlands, physically and socially quite distanced from the dominant Peruvian metropolis of Lima….‘The memorial [i]s a beautiful, arresting sculpture that powerfully evoke[s] the suffering of all Peruvians who continue to struggle through painful reconciliation in the wake of the terrorism and violence.’”

-Katherine Hite, “The Eye that Cries:”
The Politics of Representing Victims in Contemporary Peru. A Contra Corriente. Vol. 5, No. 1, Fall 2007, 108-134