Magazine article World Literature Today

Meditation Caves of Tibet

Magazine article World Literature Today

Meditation Caves of Tibet

Article excerpt

The land has risen many times into mountains

only to be clawed back down again

by the mindless trinity of wind, ice, and rain.

In Tibet, the Himalaya rises closer

to the upper edge of air than any other place

on earth, and yet it is falling even as it lifts.

The sheer cliffs of the Upper Mustang are crumbling

into streams, and its hillsides rut like ancient skin.

There was a time when even this highest kingdom,

this abode of the snow, was only a seafloor,

a batter of stones, sand, mud, shells,

and all the other fallen things that had sifted

downward through an ancient sea to make its bed,

but in time it all was pressed into rock and lifted


No wonder Buddhist monks who turned

two thousand years ago from the churn of the turning

world rose among these barren rocks

and thin air to find their secret space.

Hundreds of feet from the ground in a cliff's face,

they carved their doorways into the rock, square

and half-wheel portals you can see from below.

They knew their bodies were just a brief dream

of the earth, a little dust and water risen

together somehow, for a time. …

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