Outside, the city below spreads like Babylon,
waiting for sunset to reflect its colored lights.
A palace across the road brandishes iron gates,
warning tourists with signs against approach,
while winking windows from towers
and displaying its tentacled charms
along the slippery slope. Portable toilets
look up to it, lined like beggars for alms,
the last chance before the pilgrims climb
to the chapel on the red rocks above.
Inside, the scent of candles wafts to meet
the rays of sun surrounding the empty cross
cast like a blessing hand onto faces and walls,
light seen only in its shadow that with each hour
touches every space to sanctify it all,
overlooked by the Virgin’s loving face,
mirroring grace in a gilded halo,
and at the altar, flowing robes of watchers
in wood carved to the softness of flesh
glow in a scene of wonder and new birth.
Outside, looking upward, pilgrims
turn their backs to the city and see
crimson pillars towering above, ancient,
wrecked shores of long-gone seas,
profiles of faces outlined against the sky,
shadowy expressions drifting
with the travels of the sun,
creation inimitable, eternal,
while stone, into the silence,
cries out hosanna.