Wak’a | Will McCollum

A wak’a (or huaca) was a spiritual place or monumental object among Quechua-speaking people in South America. Huaca especially gained ceremonial importance under the Inka Empire, where the object-places mapped cosmological and imperial lines on the religiopolitical landscape. They were usually composed of stone (either natural or manipulated) and likely marked a liminal space between the spiritual and material worlds.

1. Grids

Today,    of moments:
Paraguayan contra-
band cigarettes    and
the sunset in subtle Andean
purples over a brewery

of a beer we drink here,

for which I have a tab at

the across the way shop—

garrulous señora proprietor—
knitted curls, tight smile,     always
knowingly adding to my tab the beers,
the tab generated in a gridded note-
book and made out to

El Gringuito.

That night in that gridded market town,
where I waved my flaming shot

immolated hand    like a torch

over the pool table at
the Highest Irish Pub in the World

before babbling wild

in the tongue of San Juan Bautista—
patron saint of xanax-pisco cocktails.

He said through me:

“Meaning is coincidence and

coincidence is time.”

2. An Hospedaje

At a timeless truck stop
on    the Panamericana,
on    the southern desert coast
where papayas taste    like the sun
and pisco    like the moon,
we drink two bottles together.
An Afroperuvian truck driver
peels me off    the tile floor
of the security-barred    patio
with hanging cardboard cutout
ads for soda.

And then she ushers me to our room
in this nameless hospedaje    that
I know again
for the very first time
when I rise    to the golden light:
the plastic palms and cream walls.

We lie clutching each

other    wondering    how

we get home from here.

3. Ethnogenesis

Your voice

the machinistic

residue    of Practice    or
pisco evaporated from
the small batch

ceramic vats    squatting,

decorative on the lawn

of a gas station
we see    simultaneous-
ly as we speed by
to shrill    Cumbia tunes
after wandering
a bleached wilderness
on the edge of town.

The crumpled flowers
I brought you
from Andagua—

cactus blooms and

snapdragons grown
crazy in the shade

of a volcano,

ethnogenetic ancestor
from which all
state-citizens once


And you set those blossoms
in a red plastic mug
on the windowsill
before you left and
I threw them away yesterday.

Will McCollum is currently living in Birmingham, Alabama as he prepares to begin the PhD program in anthropology at the University of Chicago in the fall. He graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2015 and his work has been featured in Sobotka Literary Magazine.