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.