Archive for May 2013

My experiences in McLeod Ganj and later in Ladakh were like those of a pilgrim. They were journeys to the very soul of the great mountains of the north where I savoured the sacred places and  spaces. These poems were born from that experience.


I Sit Facing The Mountains

I sit facing the mountains

Carved white out of blue foam,

Birdsong pines up to their knees,

Day tossing swallows into the air,

Magpies trailing tails over rooftops,

I breathe in morning heavy with voices.


Last night, tired of bloodstained stories

Of the city crouched in the plains –

Neck-deep in nectar,

Tired of legends and forgetfulness,

I followed the mountain road

Dusty with cloud-song.


All dark, the wind and rain

Slammed windows, hissed at doors,

Left me dreaming of the broken plains

And how my life has been a circled path –

Each footprint growing, merging,

Till there’s one and I don’t seem to move.


Hauling myself along the sticky web,

I know the spider watched me

While I swung,

Loose skinned jowls dripped with age,

I watched the moment when the thread

Snapped and let me float away.


I sit facing the mountains and I know

That this was meant to be –

This journey from the belly of the storm

Across the broken plains, up from the sea;

And all the journeys that we make

Merge into one and rest –

The warmth of one print in the quilted snow.


I Want

I want to empty the bowl of the sky

Drink the blue deep,

Quench my thirst for constellations,

The great void.


Every particle of me belongs to another

Every breath, every word, every thought,

Every feeling, every dream,

Every victory, every defeat, everything.


I want to empty the bowl of the sky,

Lose my ‘I’ ness




Dawn with its sack of bells

Lumbers over the mountains

Sun in hand,

Whistles a freedom song,

Tip-toing over chains.



Stay with the moment, stay,

Shed snake-skin time,

Breathe in the sun-drenched day,

A blue unfettered song

Light on your lips;

Believe there’s nothing more beyond

This now,

Stay with the moment, stay.


Somewhere beyond the mountains

Winter waits

A snow leopard stretching itself

On cool grey rock

Sniffs the blue air;

I can hear its breath

When homes fall asleep

And hours curl into each other’s arms

And dreams open mooneyes.


Leaves fall, crackle, crumble,

Turn to dust –

Move with the wind’s sway,

The leopard shivers,

Rises, stalks the town

Fragrant with old fur

And the wheezing of sleepers.


Beyond the mountains,

Winter waits.



In The Presence Of The Master



Where the world collects

And dissolves

In the effulgence of light-

Names, faces, lives,

Pasts, presents, futures

Do not exist;

Just the voice

Rising and falling,

Circling, gliding,


In the presence of the Master

The devout bend like rainbows.


 It’s not the meaning

Of the words

That move me

But the sound,

Not their manner of saying

But their reverberation,

Not the speaker

But the presence,

Not the moment

But the flow of time,

Not the tangible

But the breath –

Like wind never still,


In great cycles of rebirth –


At the feet of the Master

Echoes gather in pools

Crystal with truth.


 I am the seed,

The root, the leaf;

I am the stem,

The trunk, the fruit;

I am the cycle

In the dark,

I am the silence,

I, the spark.


I am your pulse,

Your breath,

Your yearning,

I, your dream,

Your reason, song,

I am the way

You choose to walk on,

 I am your act,

Your right, your wrong.

Up From The Dark Belly

Heaved up from the dark belly

Of the ocean,

 Floating on time

Soaked in salt

And the freedom cry of the wind –

These fields of sand

Speak in a language I do not understand,

Grains flow hissing and sighing,

Waves wash mani walls

Sacred with waiting.


I stand here

Occupying this space, this time,

Waiting –

To be finally released,

Set free –

A puff of grey dust

Along the soulbank of the Indus

On its journey to forever

In the still light of the afternoon.


Spring Walking

I walk with the wind

Through apricot orchards in bloom –

Petals in my hair

The foretaste of harvests on my lips,

Wild irises about my feet

And young mother spring

Birthing her newborns

From the furrows of stone.


Freedom Song

Blue-white mountains surround me,

Snow skinned granite

Breathes sunlight rising in plumes,

Streams string through morning land

Beading boulders

And this desert rejoices with magpies

And redstarts –

Filling my lungs with peace-dust

And freedom breath.

Even though night will bring snow dreams

And cold lipped wind,

Even though the dark will shower comets,

Even though I know this too will pass –

I savour the circle of blue-white mountains,

Plumes of sunlight

And singing streams,

Filling my lungs with peace-dust,

Chanting my freedom song.


 At Hemis

 At Hemis

Where the sky rests on rock blades

Of mountains

Flags flap like wings of rising birds,

Earth and sky blend into one,

Memory’s a window to the dark.


Stagsang Raschen, you who saw

The vision of eighty mahasiddhas,

Became a rainbow body;

Spirit who laid these stones,

Building chambers, passageways –

Honeycombed with secrets,

Where are you now?


My soles, soft on the hard cold floors

Follow from dark to light to dark –

Space into space, beyond, within,

Unknowing of the brick it tramples on;

Smoke, old oil,

Monk murmurs, prayer wheels,

Land outside yielding

To hands and dreams of men,

New homes, chortens and worship shells,

Paved paths eating mountain sides.


At Hemis,

Five hundred souls persist,

Holding flesh and bone about them,

Cloaked in breath,

Filled with blood of life,

Smeared with the dust of death.


 Mountain Dreams

 Willow and poplar

Woven thatched and beamed,

This roof holds out the snow,

The sun, the rain,

The mountain’s breath of frost,

The burning wind;

It is our shelter

From the ancient sky.


At dusk I watch

The groves of willow and poplar

Still in the dogbark air

Wait for the night,

Their roots deep in the earth

Drinking mountain dreams

Their branches sift the dusty air

For light, pure light.


Tonight I lie awake and feel

This room alive with mountain dreams

And light.




Father of the dark truth,

Translator, transformer,

Map maker of soul continents

Within and beyond,

I feel your presence

In this desert land –

Fire and ice,

Silence and chant,

Rock and river,

Hoarse whispers of the wind.



Blood song spirals,

Heartbeat mysteries –

I dance your eight selves

This Monkey Year;

I dance for you, teacher

Of the dark truth,

I dance the sacred dance

Beyond myself –

Spinning a spiral

To the centre of my being.



Bowl of the great lake,


Dried by the prophecy of Arhat Nyimagung,

You offered the last drop to the thirsty sky,

Blue tongues licking you dry,

Warm breath blowing out

Crevasses and caves,

Sand ripples and hungry bowls,

Fingers etching paths  along mountain bodies,

Scooping new wombs –

Baring them to the elements

Birthing nectar words.



The sun explodes and scatters light,

Sucking out ochre, smoothening it dry,

And habitations of the past

Crumble, powder, dust and fly.


And somewhere in this burning light

Hovers the spirit of Naropa the woodseller,

Devotee of Tillipa, Teacher of Marpa –

Father of the Kargynds,

Master of Milarapa –

The journeyman from the power of dark

To the purity of light

Forging simple words,

Songs of the inner life.


I see you holy ones in the eyes of children

And the aged bent with wood bundles

Of willow,

I hear you in the voices of morning

And the whispers of evening,

I feel you in the solemn quiet

Of your sacred spaces in forms of clay,

In the fragrance of butter,

In the glow of candles

And the footfalls of the past.



Life bowl of mutating earth and stone,

Home of the past, present, future,


Mountains clothe your world

As I recede.



Where the Indus and the Zanskar meet

Two worlds merge,

Dissolve, mingle, colour with colour,

History with history,

Legend with legend,

Memory with memory,

Pebbles, sand, fish, moss –

One with the other,

Until the new river widens its hips –

Flowing out among villages and towns,

Fields, homes and every day cares

Creased in wrinkles of time.


Into The Blue Beyond

Into the mountains,

Weaving between snow banks,

Past pasturelands of wild ass

And winter homes of marmots,

Rising from sleep –

Blinking into the blue light

Freckled with cloud shade,

Swept by wings of Lammergeyers

And a staggering wind

Still coloured by night.


Beyond, eastwards,

Where streams crinkle down to wetlands

Flocks pull at fresh grass

Among feeding pheasants and rocks

Thick-skinned with lichen –

The wind flat on its back,

Drowsy with birdsong.


Here, lost in the blue,

Trailing this path between snow banks

To worlds beyond worlds,

I know –

This is all there is,

Nothing more –

Just elemental change –

One to another and another,

Self generating, becoming,

Fearful, beautiful,