Moral high ground

A creative writing session at Artefact Stirchley brought to mind a time when I stood, along with the rest of a group from Birmingham, at a viewpoint overlooking the city of La Paz in Bolivia. The feelings I had at the time resonated with what we had been discussing and prompted me to write this poem.

Looking down on the city of La Paz, surrounded by mountains

View over the city of La Paz: it spreads out on each side of the photo, disappearing into the midday sun on the left

We came a long way to get here, from another continent,
to reach this city high among the Andean peaks.

Today we rose further through the already-thin atmosphere,
leaving behind the hustle of the city,
passing dried-up rivers, homes for millionaires,
homes for the poor, a home for the dead.

Now we stand and look down from the edge of the ravine.
Humanity clings to its rocky floor,
the city spreading out into the midday sun,
its tiny towers reaching up towards the sky which will not bend down to meet it,
suspended high above the encircling mountains.

Here in the silence we hear the cry of the city,
not the swarming traffic, not the street vendors, not the pressing crowds,
but the cries of the heart, of grief, of poverty, of betrayal, of injustice.

In this upside-down place the rich have escaped to the safety of the valley,
while the dwellings of the poor flow up the mountainside
and on to the barren plateau above.

Even the highest mountains,
forever inaccessible in their snow-covered purity,
only reveal your fragility.

As Jesus wept over Jerusalem, we pray over this City of Peace.
We see a million people, fearing the future, fearing each other,
and we are forever part of you.

Your lucky charms and crucifixes cannot protect you.
No mighty cross or statue stands guard over the city.
Look not to what is dead, but to what is alive.
Hear each other’s cries, and find the cross that lies within.


Here’s a link to more photos taken during our visit to La Paz. The Spanish named the city Nuestra Señora de la Paz (Our Lady of Peace): in reality it is a noisy and busy place.

Posted by banting_wp

Leave a Reply