The condor soars above the ruins where sandstone glows like fire
And infinite blueness haloes the idols that inspired a lost empire.
And the condor soars above the ruins and rubbish on city streets
Where barefoot children play with stones and pester tourists for sweets.
The condor soars over jagged peaks caught by glaciers in a serpentine net
That shone white-bright against the sky – the continent’s proud coronet.
And the condor soars over jagged peaks, now denuded of their icy crown
Now only rocks and gravel remain to show where the glaciers once ground.
The condor soars past hills which once were made of silver and gold
The land of nobles bright with diadems, skilfully hammered and scrolled
And the condor soars past hills whose gold was shipped away to Spain
Now dusty relics in darkened museums are all that still remain
The world is changed. This is no longer the realm of Tiwanaku and Inca
Yet still the condor soars above its ancient Andean finca.
This poem is a response to Rick Mobbs’ inspiring picture above. As I’m currently living in South America, I was struck by the many shapes which seemed evocative of the artefacts found in Tiwanaku and Inca ruins, as well as the image of the condor that is so characteristic of the Andes.
And yet the lower part of the image seemed to suggest decay, and made me think of other sights that are sadly just as characteristic as the Andes – the consequences of poverty, climate change and past imperialism. And so I wrote this sonnet, which contrasts the past and the present.
(Finca is a Spanish word meaning the land that is someone’s property.)