Tibetan Side Of Town - Bruce Cockburn

    Through rutted winding streets of Kathmandu
    dodging crowded humans cows dogs rickshaws --
    storefronts constellated pools of bluewhite
    bright against darkening walls.

    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 temple gate
    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
    monastery walls.

    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)


    Marco Giunco
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