Exploring the human and greater-than-human world

Posts tagged ‘fieldwork’

Poetry and Grasslands

I am launching a new series of blog posts, sharing poems I wrote during my Tibetan odyssey years 1999-2009.  The poems track back and forth between years, juxtaposing naive discoveries with increasingly complex and concerning entanglements.  I’m not trying to follow in the tradition of Westerns – injis – representing Tibet; rather, this is my truth spoken in poetic lines (I rarely rhyme or use meter, and nearly all of them are in zero draft form) I scribbled in my field notebooks and journals over solitary cups of tea, in the midst of momo parties, waiting in airports, or contemplating with the mountains as my companions and witnesses.  This is much more about laying bare the discovery of myself through the muse of “Tibet” (which I encountered in five different nations: India, Nepal, China, U.S. and Canada) and excavating my non-academic writing and voice in a post-dissertation world.

 

Roof of Hotel Tibet (1999)

Tin roofs

Shingled roofs

We call them shanties

Held down by rocks

They call them home.

Monkeys thunder over them

In the morning,

A sound becoming familiar.

We watch

Buzzards, crows, hawks,

Pass circle upon circle

On the currents

Of the sky.

Snow glazed mountains

We call them the Himalayas

Rise

Behind greener mountains

Terraced gardens

Prayer flags whispering white

By the currents of the sky.

 

 

Making Tea (2006)

He took the tea out of the bag

I leave the tea in the bag

To make early evening chai

While an old woman

Collects hair from the street dogs

As they wag their tails

Wait for their turn

And follow her down the street

When she has taken what she needs.

I fight loneliness even here

As I watch the street below.

But then he calls up.

 

 

Knotted Tongue (1999)

Learning instinct?

Only if it died

Only if it went somewhere

So deep inside

It took a journey

Across canyons of clouds

And mountain passes

10,000 miles high.

 

Hurt and worry

Disintegrate

When your only way

To get a meal

To answer a call

Of curiosity

Is to look a fool.

 

You’re a fool

When you purposefully

Knot your tongue.

 

Momo Party (2006)

Fingers

The deftness of tactility

Shaped dough into half moons

Twirling hash into tobacco

Moving, fluttering

Like butterflies

That live for only tonight.

 

 

I Cannot Be an Inji Anymore (2006)

Working in and with the Tibetan situation

Causes me to assess my own life

What I have, what I have lost,

And what I can regain.

It causes me to look at my own life,

What my heritage is,

Where I come from,

Who I come from,

And what remains incomplete,

Unknown, un-retrieved,

Un-reconciled,

But not irreconcilable.

Working with artists,

I wonder what my own journey

Would look like

If I took the time to explore it,

Confront it, and express it.

I will always believe in Tibet,

That it is a free country

And that someday His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Will return.

I will always pay witness,

I will always speak out,

Always lend my support,

Always.

But I cannot be an inji anymore,

I cannot be an outsider anymore

To something I must make a life

Passion.

I cannot be an outsider

To my heart anymore.

So, I turn to what is left undone

In my life,

In the life of my family

My fatherland (payul)

My culture, my talents.

I need something inside my soul

To believe in.

I cannot fight China

I cannot save Tibet.

Not like this,

Not with a restless heart,

Discontented heart, confused mind,

From halfway around the world.