“Soy quien soy.
Una coincidencia no menos impensable
que cualquier otra.”

Wislawa Symborska

6 Nov 2021


Post by Rowena Hill

Read the SPANISH version



Patches, streaks on black,
huge spotless shapes
on the horizon or looming
and vanishing over gorges,
the refulgent snow
lifts the watchful, desiring heart
up and out toward nothing
but its blank, intense perfection.


The painted frames round windows,
stretching square to rhomboid,
ragged or straight but fertile
like coal, like black crystals blooming,
insistently summon.
Inside, rooms will be furnished
with organs, eyes in the ceiling,
lungs blowing in the drapes;
the couches will be knees and shoulders,
prayer wheels the coiled intestine
and the throne a pumping heart.


Bare patches of hillside,
bites out of the turf
where no yaks graze,
must be the beginning.

Whole valleys have succumbed.
The road leads among mounds
streaked green and grey
down, down into a hell
of crumbling rock
and hot dust.

Above: rusted peaks
or Sakya striped,
red, dirty white, dull black,
unchallenged mineral.

Ruined monasteries
surrender to the air
their washed-out colours
and withdraw into stone.

Offence against silence

– the silence where a round green bud
or white mountain range
swells to a threshold –
is a kind of murder.

Tibet always listened
and its raptness dictated
inward sloping stone walls,
barley fields in terraces,
song and pilgrimage.

China hears no prompting
older than its own ambition;
tin and concrete boxes
humiliate the timeless valleys,
harsh commands reverberate.

The womb of silence is torn,
its seeds are withering.
They walk the same streets
and watch the sun rise
over the same stony ridges,
but they are two nations.

The slaughter is over,
the blood dried, the fallen stones
at rest or back in their places,
the screams no more than echoes.

Now the faithful prostrate and pray
to their thousand-armed guardian,
while the others, as tourists,
appraise their cultural heritage.

The Tibetans are the swarming slaves,
the Chinese the overseers
on the sites of construction works
that slash the landscape.

Smiles and humour can’t bridge
the disparity; the invaders spread
over the country like a steel wool blanket
and the landsmen suffocate.


The rock at the place where the rivers meet
is bigger than a big house
the colour of earth and plants grow on it
and prayer flags cascade from its crown.

It began as a pimple on a mud bank
and then it was a momo,
then a child’s head and it grew older
and bigger as the rivers sank:
a gong, a sitting yak, a nomad tent,
a house, a temple.

Time is full now and it’s waiting,
an egg gathered round its germ.
Suddenly it will crack and burst,
wings will unfold from inside it,
shimmering in the astonished air,
and a prince of light will soar
raining jewels on the valleys.

A sage lived a thousand years
and when he died his hair
took root and a thicket sprouted.

The last tree lived a thousand years
and being ready to die
it flowered from crown to bole.

Evil men came and stripped the flowers.
Not a seed was left.

A rich dust underground
woke up and spawned;
the earth shook,
the tree split into a thousand flying splinters.

Where they fell they rooted
and swelled with fresh sap.

Heaven exists but the creatures
to inhabit it are unfinished.

Blunt snouts, knobs of wings,
eyes gelling under teguments
turn to the mountains and pray
to ascend.

Eggs from a cold womb
sown in desert winter
in the wastes of oblivion

could by arduous brooding
be thawed and vivified
to release their song.

You, blue poppy, are real.
You don’t need myth or invention.

You shock me,
standing at the pass like a beacon
or a witness to a separate world.

A whole cloudless sky
has poured its cobalt
into your crumpled petals.

Blue light glitters
in your aloof wizard’s face.


In His Holiness’s park
ripe dandelion clocks
teem in the rank grass;

deserted stone steps
lead to stagnant water
where ducks wriggle and splash.

From innocent, raw life
can complex human webs
arise again?

Can shards of memory
compose the chrysalis
for perfect mind to burst?
Space and soul are the same immensity
stretching to farthest horizons,
at play in undulations,
condensing in nodes of charisma
at rocks or plants.

Sacredness is a dimension:
steep walls, crests,
the bodies of pilgrims measuring
earth, and the flight of doves,
in it, are equal.

Red is reserved for people.
The crimson breast of a bird,
a small berry,
wear it modestly
but it swaggers and glows
in monks’ robes and temple altars
and hums in the clothes
of a woman standing alone
in a field of emerald barley.

At evening
herds file and scamper,

– coats swaying, hooves blinking –
to crouching stables
that are also houses.

Bent old women
heft bundles of firewood.

Smokes lingers
and rises in thin trails
that the sky takes home.

The students’ cells where knowledge
grew like leavened bread
have lost doors and windows

but the courtyard encloses them,
the nearby hills encircle
and the dark wings of the guardian
imprinted on the temple wall
still shelter.

‘Get over yourself’
she said to herself and suddenly
there was only mountain.

No need to remember or explain
or direct the mind upward
out of its defilements,
or illuminate its workings.

Let it sit like the marmalade cat
in an old monastery, imperturbable
at the altar of what it loves.

Let it shout for the flowers,
violet, primula,
azalea, poppy, iris.

Its porous roots
are embedded in assent:
being as praise.

There’s nothing more to do.

Read the SPANISH version



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