I should be seriously out of place. No-one speaks my language here
and I do not speak theirs. But
this city is so beautiful; everywhere
I sense I am surrounded by angels, everywhere
there is the echo of Hallelujah.
For all the noise and bustle of these city streets and squares,
the little Daihatsu taxis touting for business,
the urgent sellers of trinkets and those dubiously sealed bottles of agua,
this morning I am feeling at peace in this White City.
Before me is the cathedral, one side of the great square,
either side the shaded colonnades of cafes and shops;
here are the rose gardens and the old ladies feeding pigeons,
there the shady coloured alleys of Santa Catalina.
And behind it all the benign bulk of the mountain el Misti
rises into the clouds, as though it were this city’s personal protecting god.
But as I stray away from the Plaza de Armas
the broken walls along the side streets advise me of the stark volcanic truth.
This wonderful place is not as solid as it seems,
nor its mountain the peaceful protector I might have imagined.
Sometimes in this city
the ground itself has been torn apart, beneath her people’s feet.
Of another great city, our Lord once said:
“Not one stone will be left standing on another.”
I find myself reflecting on the sober truth, that
nothing we build for ourselves will stand for ever;
our strongest walls one day will fall. And on this peaceful day,
for a moment or two the Miserere Mei
mingles with those Hallelujahs.