SHANGRI-LA 1976

Where hawks circle

and the mist-drawn valley hides,

Swayambhu, the hilltop stupa,

stands above the town.

A wall of sheer rock arrayed behind,

a fleet of clouds

settles on the ridges between.

As the outlying mountain air distills the sun’s rays,

So gleams the Stupa!

its maypole of prayer flags

rustles in the wind. Calm, blue, Buddha eyes

gaze in four directions,

and man, like the hawk,

circles below. A hawker’s shout away,

lanes stumble here and there

Tradesmen and women elbow each other

for a place in the sun.

The subdued hum of the hive

draws all in. Hovels like bunkers

edging out from the earth

hold whole families in rooms

above the river’s bowdlerized slime.

Kids scramble along the river and point

the way to Durga’s root-knotted

brick-entangled shrine

Mud sluiced banks no longer sustain her.

Raised on splayed banyan,

the conquering goddess

lies exposed. Across the tooth-gapped bridge,

the Stupa beckons

Through thickening waves of paddy

egrets glide…

and rest among the grain

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