This is not Pompeii
where the dead are on display
like plaster sculptures,
their last horrific gestures
frozen for the ages
while the guide drones on
with scholarly precision.
This is more recent,
more frightening, more real,
an entire city crushed beneath
the flowering mountain plants,
blessed by the downturned hands
of the towering white Christ
who stands atop the ossuary
like a groom on a wedding cake.
The serene nevadas bear no trace
of the fury they unleashed.
Children circle round the monuments.
Finches alight on the four remaining palms.
As if the screams at the circus
when the earth split its seams,
of the people huddled in the church
when the avalanche roared down
were only the screams of a feverish child
awakening safely in his mother’s arms.
As if the coche de Ancash
were heading back to Huaraz as usual.
As if the premonitions of the good doctor
were only the ravings of a loco.
No this is not Pompeii.
If it were our andina guide would not be
hiding her tears beneath dark glasses.
I would not be hearing
the cries of my lost son
as he slid beneath the truck.
Your best friend would not be
calling out to you
from the rubble in Managua.
(originally published in Voices Israel – second place winner in Reuben Rose Annual Poetry Competition in Israel)