The butterfly sparkle in my
lasered eye still seems
to hold that last shot of red sun through haze over jumbled roofs.
Everything moves like slow fluid in this atmosphere thick as dreams
with sewage, incense, dust and fever and the smoke of brick kilns
and cremations --
Tom Kelly's bike rumbles down
we're going drinking on the Tibetan side of town.
Beggar with withered legs sits
sideways on his skateboard, grinning.
There's a joke going on somewhere but we'll never know.
Those laughing kids with hungry eyes must be in on it too,
with their clinging memories of a culture crushed by Chinese greed.
Pretty young mother by the
covers her baby's face against diesel fumes.
That look of concern -- you can see it still --
not yet masked by the hard lines of a woman's
struggle to survive.
Hard bargains going down
when you're living on the Tibetan side of town.
Big red Enfield Bullet lurches
to a halt in the dust.
Last blast of engine leaves a ringing in the ears
that fades into the rustle of bare feet and slapping sandals
and the baritone moan of long bronze trumpets muffled by
Prayer flags crack like whips
in the breeze
sending to the world -- tonight the message blows east.
Dark door opens to warm yellow room and there
are these steaming jugs of hot millet beer
and i'm sucked into the scene like this liquor up
this bamboo straw
Sweet tungba sliding down --
drinking on the Tibetan side of town.
(Toronto, March 1987)