Sunday, November 20, 2005

Day Six

Drepung monastery

snot nose temple brats
mindful of
the mantra magic
work their charms
on the up toiling tourist

water tears off the mountain
turns a wheel in the stream

the creek with prayer flags knotted below

best to build your monastery
high on a hill
not only for the vista
but to have the invaders
puffed when they come
so slower, so easier to pick off
that way you’ll be able to go on
most of the time enjoying the view

butter is the nation’s fuel
and we breathlessly await butter powered vehicles
to bear us up the endless stairs
provided as if to prove vain
efforts at enlightenment

leave the butter in the fridge
give me a pair of Tibetan lungs
big mountain heart

the truth, I can take it
these lamas are wisdom incarnate
that’s wisdom of the inherited kind

pilgrims bring butter to keep the lamps burning

monks scrape butter back
make space for more

in the temple
monkeys in karma pyjamas
turn cash into merit –
of the old icy waters

the temple strewn with yi jiao notes
each of which bears pictures of determined tribesfolk
looking hopefully left to the future

how can the face of Matreiya be known?

bitter tears of the child with no cash from me
here’s the authentic I came for

but rules are rules – today my change is only for buskers

and so now I am privileged to see
all the stages of a tantrum
how expert the acting
the heart in it all

everything bends till it breaks
till it’s broken
the wheel can be expected to turn
in our eyes
foot after foot


by I am a tourist and as such
take refuge where there is a tap
make my hands clean again

imagine a race of aliens comes
nothing they can’t have
or we won’t give

you forget where you are
hear the wheels
you forget
which stairs you came up
which walls came apart

behind us the mud grows over again
monks here mainly are counting cash
which somewhere no doubt is dispensed

so playful
can we call it religion?

playing at praying
just look at these lads
mum with the butter thermos
these two tumbling
with the monks
on their beds

at the highest point a lama blesses me
he ties a charm around my neck
wu kwai
it’s all downhill from there

Lhasa satori series

after the 5 kwai blessing and amulet
breathing improved
but I discovered I still had the runs
after all


on the bus I learn
the Lhasa cigarette is much closer to incense
than anything you’ve smoked before
three puffs to the stick
passive smoking on the high plateau
it’s really a comradely thing


and in bed breathless
to get out the mantra of tantra
enticements of the lower peaks
those sea level endearments
we all love so well


rain like the footsteps
of everyone everywhere

a planet lost
in puddled light

bicycle wheels churn home


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