haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2008, vol 4 no 2

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Patricia Prime

 

Tattered Flags

The Bhokar Market, for the three days of the New Year Festival, is the focus of festivities, drama and ritual. Herdsmen and their families descend from the mountains to celebrate. The courtyard of the red monastery flutters with tattered flags bearing Tibetan script.

under the eaves
of a whitewashed lamasery
a band of ochre -
a procession of monks
slowly emerges

Tibetans crowd the streets dressed in their finery: high boots, fancy waistcoats, gold-braided hats and fur-lined coats. They listen to music and watch plays, interspersed with prayers. Sheep are tied to railings. Tables are laden with jewellery, woven cloth, food, ornaments, statues of Buddha, bells.

in sunlight
the golden symbol
of dharma
the ratchet-like rhythm
of turning wheels

I'm welcomed into a family's home. The distempered farmhouse walls are daubed with drying circles of yak dung to be used for fuel. Dogs, chickens, and grinning children with wind burnt cheeks gather in the yard to take a look at me. Yak butter tea, boiled potatoes and shrivelled apples are served on an embroidered cloth.

A burly man, in felt clothing and yak skin hat, takes me into the prayer room to show me the woven wall hangings. Their world hangs by a thread, their livelihood almost in ruins.

chanting mantras
to the sound
of temple bells
the crowd standing
in the dust

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