There lies a land beyond where you are seeking
where in dark red rooms musty maps are kept
and tattered ochre robes lie torn in no one’s keeping
Those maps, its seems, no one remembers how to read them
Or to what country, to what rivers they once referred
Stains blot out entire oceans
the names and contours are dimmed and blurred
by loss, a shadow seeping through a nation
where they are scribbling in the children’s books with blood.
Across Tibet, land of our imagination, we grope, hapless,
for a flickering sign: a hand, a voice, a flame
astonishing the darkness, or the comfort of a rag
some other traveler has left behind.
Up ahead a man is stumbling through the tundra
his attention fixed upon a dwindling gleam
We follow unsure of where we’re going
across no promised land but bleak terrain:
the self uncharted, no more than this, no less.
When they’re done beheading all the Buddhas
and the ashes settle from the burning page
and the whores and soldiers smile in satisfaction
and tourists line up to feed the yeti in his cage
why then the old demons will soon be waking
stirring from the starved roots of sapless trees
Now that none know how to tame or to appease them
an alien hunger on the earth will be released.
Linda Lappin received her MFA from the University of Iowa. She has lived in Rome for twenty years, working as a teacher and translator. In 1996 she received an NEA award in translation for her work on the stories of Federigo Tozzi. She has just finished her first novel, Prisoner of Palmary. (1999)