Friday, November 04, 2005

Day Three


every day here
the practice of breathlessness

one drum in this temple beats against
irrelevance of time

first light shows
a team of craftsmen
have fashioned my room

the cornices Nepali colours
orange, green, bright blue, bright yellow

someone had to have the money for this
(the sacred made profane)
all of which points to another invasion

the West’s – new Reich of the groove minded mystic
health conscious, how they pick here like sparrows

like that spoilt boy Gautama
who’d never seen suffering

nothing is good enough for
the Babel grumbling legion
among whom number me
because there’s
no amount of objectification
gets me off the list

against breathlessness
silence as practice

heart less pumping
nothing slows the chatter
mind to its drum
runs on

the Dhod Gu Hotel

a western orientalism

first fly of day
its paws at rub
to waking light
always preparing

room burnished within
the cornices all gold adorned
indeterminate face

all morning to get up
to get the hang of
prayer flags at flutter
washing on lines

outside the world adorned in mists

unknown motors hailing
through windows

the Dhod Gu Hotel has no lift
climbing those stairs
twenty years older
what better meditation
on decay to come

at the top of the stairs
a basin scraped from the mountains around
as where a dog came burying

rancid risings of the street
even to this fourth floor height

down there the police
red epaulettes, black caps
at table singing, whistling
all stages between
breakfast in steam
the whistling stops

for breath must be
caught with breakfast

Bahkor Circuit

how to breathe in the smoke that is offered
(Wednesday is incense day)

kup hei fu hei
in Cantonese

attention is drawn
where nothing should be

the Barkhor circuit – shop lined
stalled arrangement of temptations
against which true pilgrims are proof

there are plenty of fakes here
everyone’s telling me

see the man beating his child
with the prayer beads
and to be fair
he’s beating himself as well

on every shopfront
flags of the nation

on every rooftop
prayer flags rot

like prayer
like feet falling endlessly on

aum mane padme aum


the hive of Lhasa
wheel unto itself

the other worlds have overtaken
this our world
blameless remains

as always
light cast through smoke
mote beam

before the Jokhang main gate
throng of prostrators
crowd of cameras behind

best to bring your own bedding for the job
cardboard knee protection
gardening gloves

a thousand Buddhas watching the thieves
watching the crowd

blue sky through the wheel

always higher to climb


gold glints in the darkness
there’s always an opening

prostrate before the Jokhang

perpetual motion

a line dance to the holiest corners
thermos and prayer wheel
each keeping hold

low hum like a hive
the mantra is moving
butter lamps burn ever on


who is the more transgressive?
which thou least holy?

the old Tibetan man washing his raw corn
from the holy tap
tourists washing hands over his corn
the girl with a camera who catches it all
monk unconcerned brushing by
the foreign devil with the pen
who gets it all down
your reading eye
mind behind that
all second guessing
perpetual motion

oiling the prayer wheels
but that’s not enough
another devotee comes behind
with a rag for the drips


a slit in the roof whence the pilgrim’s proceeding

devotion needs must be public performance
selves lost in the forward flow

light of day above the dark
a moment’s calm in the smoke

nothing unpainted
nothing uncarved

on the roof with his mobile
where cameras blaze
their here and now
thus mock the eternal
mocks them

between her face and the lens
the old woman holds her prayer wheel

a refuge in the dharma there


a spin together

they’re a wheel
we’re a wheel
spun and spinning
done, beginning

by cloisters beside
come sudden calm
ruined chanting
rickety echo

colours subdued here

worship is public performance
tashidele with monks we whisper

enlightenment strides out of light
through doorway
clears the throat to spit

crowd at a distance
merely mumble
seeming stillness
yet it flows


the mountains too in prayers are wreathed

everything sewn together

the tourist not knowing which way to turn

gorgeous the images
lean every way

blue sky through the wheel

there’s always a higher level
and when you’re finished climbing
see how the sky still keeps at its distance

blue greys into smoke

dark of streets lost
last shutters come down

at Dunya’s
– on Beijing Donglu

place of refuge
drink altitude tea
before going home
to the oxygen pillow

on streets of Lhasa
the lungs are never filled
the throat is never cleared

on Beijing Donglu
at Dunya’s
world away

I seek refuge from the filthy air
the crowds of pilgrims
their lice
and the more microscopic lice tormentors

unwelcome tenants of the gut
let me be no refuge for

bring me the coconut lassi!

this is the life

this is the life
artengaging as we go
it’s everywhere
we are
and never get
without which
what’s the bother


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