Words on Paper

We’ve all heard the phrase, “life is what happens while you’re making plans”.  Many of us may be thinking “the only things you can be sure of are death and taxes” this time of year.  Nonetheless, we can analyze events anyway we want, arrange and rearrange words on paper creating poems, short stories or even write books, make films and critique them, in endless efforts to make life make sense.  We close our eyes at night replaying events to make peace with thoughts, feelings.  Why do we give more energy to one scenario over another?

I had a whole day to explore the Pokhara area before early morning when I would begin a much anticipated trek in Nepal’s Annapurna Himal.   I decided that I would head southwest from Pokhara on the road to Butwal and visit Tashi Ling Tibetan Village. I would have momos for lunch before viewing the Tibetan carpets and handicrafts  afterwards  lighting butter lamps, offerings, for a safe trekking trip at the small Shree Gaden Dargay Ling Gompa.

Walking past Phewa Tal toward the bus station I notice a group of local people gathering around one side of the lake.  A picnic?  A religious ceremony?  I continued onward catching the bus to Butwal just barely. Three hours later I return to Pokhara and a much larger gathering around the lake.  I tried to understand the happening.  My words on paper are what remain.

Phewa Tal

“Many people die in this lake every year.  It is a very strange lake.”
— Nepali restaurant worker

A human arc bends, wraps itself
around the southside of the lake
“Someone is in the lake, boy drowned,”
A Sherpa man says in clear English
and as if flesh differs I ask
Nepali or tourist?  Nepali
The look on the Sherpa’s face is calm,
Fresh as the silver gleam on Machupucharia
he is just there as part of the arc
in fact, the whole, curved group is peaceful
in order like a Buddhist temple scene, patient
souls waiting with alms and sang for ablutions
“Tal I rename you, Phewa Mandir”

A dinghy blue rowboat protrudes through a cloud
grace in earth’s skull cup of blood
two men inside the vessel are animated
and do not wear their hats, although Nepali
the old man cuts the lake in lines
with his oar looking for death
his partner erases the lines
rowing over them to new places
where death might be found
I glare hard at Phewa Tal Mandir
trying to see death through its glassy stare
but still nothing can be found

Behind me a buffalo butts
a mangy street dog both boast
ribs-life, rigid and dry
the difficult, the candor of trying
to remain alive now many buffalo
and cows cleaning the pale grass
of banana peels and human feces
serve to complete tal’s circle
peaceful does not mean pleasant
the animals will stay after the people go
hot breath will burst from the hills
the sky will grumble, throw light spears
into the lake the locals will make common talk
about this strange lake that eats people