Taking Tourists to Zangskar

Blue flowers at the window

our bus careers into Zangskar

Inside, improbably juxtaposed,

the would-be inner travellers.


Village grove, slight breeze


how silently the sunlight

makes the sparrows chirp.


At Rangdom Gompa

I am glad to see

the monks still sustain

the revolutions of the Universe.

Since I was here

Yeshe Monlam, fine monk, has died

For me, remembering him

they chant the aspirations of the blessed,

dust keeps falling

from the Buddha's nose.


And in this foreign monastery

hoping to bribe the villagers

they think naive, invading

American zealots hand out the powerful drugs

of Western decadence.

Without thanks the pills are grabbed and stowed away,

later some of them -- sown into hats !

Next week

the yogins' turn.


Over the valley black mountain peers -

Am I menaced or protected?

I'm not sure

Juno Dunlak

O do not say this name;

something like darkness

touches my mind.


Khatags and incense,

offerings to the Lha.

Nobody knows

the precautions we took.


Do not ask the Gods for favours here

Evoking our own powers

alone we tread this precipice.

With no intentions

the river merely waits.

Have you got

what it takes ?


Silently communing with the Gods,

roar of river, clarity of space,

the air cooled by tumbling waters

blesses the desert with emeralds.


Fire dances in a blinding sun,

space cuts out my mind

only these feet move

elemental reverie.


Closed tents;

the sick and weary rest.


the spirits of the mountains


Powered by farts

my morning stroll

in my guts

disturbing immanence.


Water seeps from the cavern's floor

refreshment for tired travellers,

no witchcraft here

Sky drunk monks hide in the recesses of the hills.

Old Geshe with fading mind

probably no longer remembers Chandrakirti.

Beyond his window choughs whirl and stall,

in distant cells his brother monks

intone their liturgies,

with lowered eyelids over shining eyes

for seventy six years

he's seen it move.


From sperm to tsa-tsa

momentary vision.


Milarepa holds his hand to an ear

What does he hear ?

What does he hear ?


Great Guru with blazing eyes

What does he see ?

What does he see ?


Sombre scholar with learned gaze

What does he know ?

What does he know ?


Touching the earth

the Buddha's hand.

E-he - Whose fingers?


Sunfire blazes

crackling figures circle, twirl like flames,

cymbals crash, drums boom.

Black hat wizardry kills the dark and evil thing

pinioned beneath the tall flag,

bright night of the long knives,

before harvest hearts are cleansed.

High above the swirling river

what do they see,

one lamergeier and two eagles?


Pulling out

the old bus lumbers over ruts and rivulets

tired strangers wave to smiling villagers

One pen - kaka - Julai !

What have they learned

these slumped and jerking figures

dozing on the long way



August 1993