Kalden's Story

Drepung, Tibet, 1958

So won a name in this place,   
handing off lath strips to a hammer's   
measure, seeing the passing girls' slits   
in roils of timber grain.

Mountains, barley, scaffold,   
dirt. I was sixteen. And hourly   
from the hoods of faraway bells   
monks emerging like hairless animals.

I was sixteen. What did I know   
of sovereignty, or the new soldiers   
by the gate, chinning their shotguns   
like violins? Nights, a tin roof

wind cracked flat; my sister,   
flushed with child, hushing a child.

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