A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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March 2007, vol 3 no 1

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Rona Laycock

Buddhas of Bamiyan

It's gloomy but as we stand on a bluff the sun climbs slowly up into the sky and reveals in the distance ice covered mountains glowing pink, nearby fat-tailed sheep baaing and birds of prey wheeling above us, their cries echoing around the rocks.

eagles rise on
a shiver of thin air
Buddha smiles

The broad valley is perfect; smoke lies across the fields like early morning mist. It is cold here and our warm bed lies empty in the yurt. The indentations we moulded in the night are still witnesses to our sleep. The sun rises through the crags and they are drawn into its light and warmth. How to describe them? Vast, silent–of course, and grown out of the rock face.

frostbitten houses
in the shadow of holy men
morning voices crackle

Silent and serene, unaffected by the years that had passed since their creation and since Genghis Khan's hordes had defaced them, the Buddhas of Bamian. Their presence is palpable even at that distance and we stand in silence.

on dun coloured hills
the black goats cry for their kids
the goatherd sleeps

he keeps a secret
only tells them in his dreams
the hour of their deaths

When Genghis came this way he slaughtered anything that moved, even the mice, in revenge for the death of his grandson. In March 2001 the Taliban completed the job he had begun. Hazaras with their Mongol features remind us of the thousand men Genghis left behind in order to seed the valley again. Even as they work the fields of wheat and barley their eyes draw us into history. I read somewhere that almost 17 million people worldwide are direct descendants of Genghis Khan. Seems he was quite the ladies' man! Animal dung pats are laid out on the roofs of houses, drying in the sun, fuel for the winter. Long irrigation channels cling to the hillsides, mile after mile, bringing the much-needed water to the fields and trees of the valley. They are small miracles of engineering and the triumph of determination over adversity.

dung on his hands
the young boy laughs
thinking of winter