ISSN 2768-4261 (Online)

A Journal of Tibetan Literature, Arts and Humanities

ISSUE 1 YESHE JULY 2021

Yeshe: A Journal of Tibetan Literature, Arts and Humanities is an open access, peer-reviewed annual journal that publishes academic articles, book reviews, and interviews related to Tibet, as well as poetry, prose, art, and fiction.


Nortse

Bound-Up Scenery (1), 1987, 4 Photographs

As Though Seen in a Picture

Tsültrim Zangpo

(Translated from the Tibetan by Chime Lama)

 

Snow falling on the gray earth,

And like a distant wayward wanderer,

I see from between tree branches,

A little bit of my own home.

 

I feel compelled to go there,

But a great river obstructs the way.

I see sunlight and redness.

Sadness leaves me behind like a soliloquy.

 

From between wavering white clouds in the sky,

A flock of little birds flies before me.

Recognizing that we share the same homeland,

A moment of perfect stillness passes.

 

From the vast deep ocean,

Coming from aboard the ship of beloved relatives,

Not yet seeing their mistaken view,

I cry a channel of grief-stricken tears.

 

Believing the picture of you brother,

To be one of a human,

And whatever ideas arise from that,

Know it is actually the tale of a vagabond.

 

(Written about a picture on 13 June 2020)

 

࿐པར་རིས་ཞིག་ལ་མཐོང་ཚུལ།

 

ས་གཞི་སྐྱ་ཐིང་ཁ་བ་བབ་པ་བཞིན།།

རྒྱང་རིང་འཁྱམ་པོ་གར་འགྲོ་ངེས་མེད་ངང་།།

ལྗོན་ཤིང་ཐར་ཐུར་བར་ནས་རྒྱང་ལྟ་བྱས།།

རང་ཉིད་འདུག་སའི་ཁང་ཁྱིམ་ཟུར་ཙམ་མཐོང་།།

 

འགྲོ་ན་འདོད་པའི་སེམས་ཀྱི་འཕེན་པ་མཆིས།།

ཆུ་བོ་ཆེ་བས་འགྲོ་ཐབས་དཀའ་བའི་ཕྱིར།།

ཉི་མའི་འོད་ཀྱང་དམར་པོ་ཉིད་དང་མཐོང་།

སྐྱོ་བའི་སེམས་ཀྱིས་ཁེར་གཏམ་བྱེད་བཞིན་ལུས།།

 

ཨ་སྔོན་དབྱིངས་ནས་སྤྲིན་དཀར་གཡོ་བའི་བར།།

བྱ་ཕྲན་ཆུ་ཚོགས་མདུན་གྱི་ཕྱོགས་སུ་འཕུར།།

རང་ཡུལ་གཅིག་པའི་ངོ་ཤེས་ཡིན་སྣང་ཤར།།

གཡོ་འགུལ་མེད་པར་ཇ་ཡུན་ཙམ་དུ་ལངས།།

 

གཏིང་ཟབ་ཆེ་བའི་རྒྱ་མཚོའི་ངོས་ཡངས་ནས།།

སྤུན་ཉེ་དགའ་བོ་གྲུ་གཟིངས་ཞོན་ནས་ཡོང།།

ལྟ་ས་ནོར་བས་ད་དུང་མ་མཐོང་བས།།

སྐྱོ་གདུང་མཆི་མ་ཡུར་ཆུ་བཞིན་དུ་ཤོར།།

 

མཆེད་པོའི་བསྐུར་བའི་པར་གྱི་རི་མོ་ལ།།

མི་ཞིག་ཡིན་པའི་ཚོར་བ་དངོས་འཛིན་ནས།།

དེ་ཡི་རྣམ་རྟོག་གང་ཤར་འདི་བཀོད་པས།།

འཁྱམ་པོ་ཞིག་གི་གཏམ་རྒྱུད་དངོས་དང་མཚུངས།།

 

 (༢༠༢༠་༦་༡༣་ཉིན་—— ཚུལ་བཟང་གིས།

པར་རིས་དེ་དང་འབྲེལ་བའི་རྩོམ་ཞིག་ཡིན་པའི་ཁུལ་ཡིན།)

 

An Offering of Pure Mind

Tsülrim Zangpo

(Translated from the Tibetan by Chime Lama)

 

Revered lama, revered lama.

Revered Compassionate Lama.

I offer you a white scarf.

I offer you worship from the heart of devotion.

Bestow the ripening blessing of my mind.

 

Revered parents, revered parents.

Revered gentle loving parents.

I offer you sweet milk tea.

I sincerely pray for your longevity.

There is the fortune of your smiling more widely than ever.

 

Revered friends, revered friends.

Revered kind friends.

I offer you ambrosia wine.

Let us join our harmonious hands together.

May your ultimate aim expand further than ever before.

 

(Written on August 2, 2019)

 

 

࿐དྭངས་བའི་ཡིད་ཀྱི་མཆོད་པ།

 

བླ་མ་ལགས་བླ་མ་ལགས།།

ཐུགས་རྗེ་ཅན་གྱི་བླ་མ་ལགས།།

ཁ་བཏགས་དཀར་པོའི་མཆོད་པ་ཁྱེད་ལ་འབུལ།།

མོས་གུས་སྙིང་ནས་གསོལ་བ་ཁྱེད་ལ་འདེབས།།

བྱིན་རླབས་རྒྱུད་ལ་སྨིན་པར་བྱིན་གྱིས་རླབས།།

 

ཕ་མ་ལགས་ཕ་མ་ལགས།།

བྱམས་བརྩེ་ཅན་གྱི་ཕ་མ་ལགས།།

འོ་ཇ་མངར་མོའི་མཆོད་པ་ཁྱེད་ལ་འབུལ།།

དུང་བའི་སེམས་ཀྱི་ཚེ་ཐག་རིང་བར་སྨོན།།

འཛུམ་མདངས་སྔར་ལས་རྒྱས་པའི་རྟེན་འབྲེལ་ཡོད།།

 

གྲོགས་པོ་ལགས་གྲོགས་པོ་ལགས།།

བཀའ་དྲིན་ཆེ་བའི་གྲོགས་པོ་ལགས།།

བདུད་རྩིའི་ཆང་གི་མཆོད་པ་ཁྱེད་ལ་འབུལ།།

མཐུན་པའི་ལག་སྡང་གཅིག་ཏུ་བསྒྲིལ་ནས་འགྲོག །

ཕུག་མདུན་བསམ་པ་སྔར་ལས་རྒྱས་པར་ཤོག །

 

(སྤྱི་ལོ་༢༠༡༩-༨་༢་ཉིན་དད་བརྩོན་ཤེས་རབ་ཀྱིས་བྲིས།།)

 

Khenpo Tsültrim Zangpo (Tib. ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་བཟང་པོ།), also known as Détsön Sherab, was born in Tibet in 1985. He moved to India and studied at Palpung Sherabling Monastery for over a decade. Having carried out authentic training, he attained the title of Khenpo. Presently, he resides at the nunnery, Palpung Yeshe Rabgeyling as a lecturing khenpo who also upholds the standard of knowledge. 

Chime Lama is the Poetry Editor of Yeshe and the Co-Editor in Chief of the Brooklyn Review. She received an MA in Divinity with a focus in Buddhist Studies and Tibetan Language from The University of Chicago and an MFA in Poetry from the City University of New York (Brooklyn College) where she teaches as an adjunct lecturer in the English Department.

London/Story

Lekey S. Leidecker

 

a boy arrives in walthamstow

in the mid-2000s. plays video games.

this is a Tibetan story.

the boy won’t enter charity shops.

sometimes, the boy is lonely.

the boy comes from far away

and moves toward an uncertain future.

this is perhaps the most

Tibetan story

there is

a boy. there is a family.

there is tobacco,

the hard contour of unkindness.

there are years of difficult

relationships and phone calls. first

jobs, first disappointments.

this is a Tibetan story.

 

in the hardest times life can feel

like it’s rootless

but watch trees as the tube

emerges from the ground

see how they filter the light

When the impossible arrives

Lekey S. Leidecker

 

as we enter the impossible moment

think of your loved ones

and what you will do

to protect them. soon,

things will deviate

far from the rhythms

of daily life. you might

leave a homeland

or flee into unknown danger.

when the impossible arrives

at your once-secure doorstep,

it will be time to act. there will

be no more time for theory.

prepare now. spend hours

memorizing your lover’s breath.

wear all your most beautiful things.

plant flowers. learn the scent of rain.

relearn how to run a mile.

be thankful for stillness, for

gentleness, for boredom.

we will need them all.

tuck away

your precious and breakable.

know this bone-deep:

when the impossible moment

comes, do whatever you must

to see the next. gather your beloveds, say a prayer,

and run.

 

Lekey S. Leidecker is a Tibetan writer born and raised in Kentucky. Her family is from Pemako. She is preoccupied with Tibetan life, identities, time, and land. She divides her time between New York and London and just finished her first chapbook.

 

Time in Broken Branches

Tsa

(translated from the Tibetan by Lowell Cook)

 

a reddish light flickers in one of Dechen Dabdrön’s eyes

and i forget in a flash

every event i ever held in my mind.

 

a white tiger burst forth into my consciousness,

causing the forests of blue and green to erupt into song.

 

one evening—Pezang Luga

can be seen emerging from a torrential expanse, exploding with liquid flowers

an emerald in his hand, broken time,

 

swimming in light, glowing in intensity—all past events dancing in sunlight.

 

ཡལ་ག་ཆག་པའི་དུས་ཚོད།

ཚྭ།

 

བདེ་ཆེན་འདབ་སྒྲོན་གྱི་མིག་ཡ་གཅིག་ལས་གློག་དམར་འཁྱུགས་པས

སེམས་ལ་བཟུང་ཡོད་པའི་དོན་དག་རྣམས

སྐད་ཅིག་ཉིད་ལ་རྨང་ནས་བརྗེད་པར་གྱུར

 

ངའི་སེམས་སུ་སྟག་དཀར་པོ་ཅིག་སླེབས་དེ

སྔོ་ལྗང་གི་ནགས་ཚལ་དེར་གླུ་ལེན་དུ་བཅུག

 

ཕྱི་དྲོ་ཞིག་ལ    པད་བཟང་ཀླུ་དགའ

ཆུའི་མེ་ཏོག་གྲོལ་བའི་དྲག་ཆར་ཀློང་ནས་ཚུར་ཡོང་བཞིན་པ་མཐོང

ཁོའི་ལག་ནང་གི་གཡང་ཊིའི་དུས་ཚོད་ཆག་པོ་དེའི་སྟེང་ནས

འོད་ལམ་ལམ    འོད་ལམ་ལམ    ཉི་འོད་ནང་གི་འདས་དོན་དག་གིས་གར་འཁྲབ་བྱུང


Tsa
(Tib. ཚྭ།) is the pen name of Karma Tenzin (Tib. ཀརྨ་བསྟན་འཛིན།). He was born in the early nineties in Jikdril, Golok. To date he has written close to a thousand poems. 

Lowell Cook is a lover, reader, and researcher of the entire breadth of Tibetan literature, from the ancient Dunhuang manuscripts to contemporary poetry. His aspiration is to be able to share some of the richness of Tibetan literature with the world. He completed his MA in Translation, Philology, and Textual Interpretation at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Nepal.

 

Scribbles Between Shanghai and Hangzhou

Da Tsenpo

(translated from the Tibetan by Lowell Cook)

 

dust and fog and the reek of decay and

bustle and cramming and chaos and

suspicions and naivety and anxiety and

 

a dance of masks and

an illusion of conversation and

a sickness of the mind and

 

factories and products and machines and

apartments and roads and fields and

crowds and government employees and soldiers and

executives and businessmen and scholars and

students and thieves and young girls and

foreigners and sightseers and me and

 

a highspeed train and

this poem.

 

(The original Tibetan poem, hrenghé né hengtrik bar gyi gyokdri, [Tib. ཧྲེང་ཧེ་ནས་ཧེང་ཀྲིག་བར་གྱི་མགྱོགས་བྲིས།] was published in the author’s collection, da tsenpö tsom tü [Tib. མདའ་བཙན་པོའི་རྩོམ་བཏུས།])

 

Da Tsenpo (Tib. མདའ་བཙན་པོ།) is from the Amdo region. As an author of both free-verse and metered poetry in addition to short stories, his collected works measure over 450 pages. Da Tsenpo’s verse poetry is a leading example of Tibet’s ‘Third Generation’ poetry scene. The Third Generation seeks to sever all connections to the classical Indian poetry that had influenced Tibetan poetry since the 13th century. Da Tsenpo’s noir aesthetic and unrestrained verse represent the defining aesthetics of the Third Generation.

Lowell Cook is a lover, reader, and researcher of the entire breadth of Tibetan literature, from the ancient Dunhuang manuscripts to contemporary poetry. His aspiration is to be able to share some of the richness of Tibetan literature with the world. He completed his MA in Translation, Philology, and Textual Interpretation at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Nepal.

Pema

Pema Nordrön

(Translated from the Chinese by Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani)

 

Why can I not be

Like a woman of the Central Plains

In ancient times

Knocking a wooden fish

Loving you like I love the Buddha

Putting only your statue

High above

Taking only your fragrance

And hiding it in my heart

Why can’t I be like you

Only embracing the mundane present

Wherein you

Would be next

 

I see you bloom in light and darkness

Graceful in turbid water and mud

Blooming flower

To be called Pema in Tibetan

I got this name when I was born

But in my life

I have no such blessing

So I wander still

Afraid of being dirty

But unable to become perfect

Yet in the vacuum

I will find

The loved Pema

 

(The original Chinese poem was published in Pema Nordrön’s collection Needle by Tibet People’s Publishing House in 2013).

 

Pema Nordrön, (Tib. པད་མ་ནོར་སྒྲོན།) (pen name: Pema Lhandze, Tib. པདྨ་ལྷ་མཛེས།) is a prolific Sinophone Tibetan writer born in Lhasa. She was a visiting scholar at Peking University in 2013. Pema has penned numerous books and anthologies of essays and poetry, including the novels The Resurrected Tara (China Writers Publishing House, 2006) and The Red Dust of Lhasa (Chinese ed. by Tibet People’s Publishing House in 2002, English ed. in 2016).

Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani (Ph.D. 2002) teaches the Chinese language at Texas State University. She has authored many academic papers and two books, Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change and Enticement: Stories of Tibet. Her research deals with Sinophone Tibetan literature. She is the founder of the Tibetan Arts and Literature Initiative.

My Most Beloved

Sinpo

(Translated from the Tibetan by Chime Lama)

  

Your voice, your timidness is the harmonious

song that lifts me. Your words, your lips

offer sweet little kisses to me.

opening melody

I want to be the lantern that your hand sets aflame,

As I wish to touch your smooth supple hand just once.

 

I want to be the flower whose roots you pull,

As I wish to stick to your chest and slowly stop your breathing.

 

I want to be the tree along the path you walk,

As having heard your charming steps, I wish to deliver the final goodbye.

 

I want to be the tears of sorrow that burst from your eyes,

As they wish to take all the suffering of your mind somewhere far, far away.

 

I want to be the love letter you write for another,

As I wish to express the entirety of your love for another in the same way I love you.

 

I want to be the harmonious mandolin atop your lap,

As laying with my head there, I wish to sing all sorts of miserable melodies.

 

I want to be the shadow that trails your back,

As I wish to always stand behind you, so would you look backwards just once?

 

Finally     I wish I was your charnel ground

I hold your beautiful round fleshless bone to my chest and embrace it once, and I wonder if it can remain inside me for the span of an eon.

 

I wished  I was  your  most 

 

(The original Tibetan poem, chénying nyéwé mi lak, [Tib. ཆེས་སྙིང་ཉེ་བའི་མི་ལགས།] is from the author’s 2018 poetry book, duktsön gyi mépé lu by yünnen rikné gyutsel partrün khang.)

 

Sinpo (Tib. སྲིན་པོ།) whose real name is Sherab, was born into a nomadic tribe in the village of Tsaruma in Khyungchu county. He is the author of three poetry collections Diary of Evil Deeds and Defilements (2017), A Song Wounded by Poisoned Weapons (2018), and A Spoon Full of Stars (forthcoming).

Chime Lama is the Poetry Editor of Yeshe and the Co-Editor in Chief of the Brooklyn Review. She received an MA in Divinity with a focus in Buddhist Studies and Tibetan Language from The University of Chicago and an MFA in Poetry from the City University of New York (Brooklyn College) where she teaches as an adjunct lecturer in the English Department.

Looking for Answers

Jangbu  

(Translated from the Tibetan by Lama Jabb)

 

What’s happened?

So quiet, us today!

 

Don’t we want to tell? Or, don’t we know how to tell?

As if watching a movie with the sound turned off

 

This flashing of red lightning but without the sound of the thunder

Like a choked throat

Why is it that the darkness is darker than before, in the aftermath of the light?

 

This dashing of the body of waves against the rock but without the sound of the crash

Like covered ears

Where did those beauties on becoming crumbling flesh and bones come from?

 

This losing of precious lives of siblings and relatives without the sound of cries to hear

Like feelings are also already dead

We who always have only a similar thought and similar feeling

Especially in the aftermath of a great calamity

 

What’s the matter? How did it go?

Don’t we dare to tell? Or, don’t we have anything to tell?

So quiet, the world today!

 

So quiet, like being dead

Like this pandemic, possessing swiftness

Like a thorn deep within the flesh that can’t be torn out

Are we looking for a question?

 

If the road outside is blocked and the gate shut

Is the space inside really getting bigger and bigger?

If you find something resembling an answer by chance sometime

Please do also tell me what it is, your gracious body, your gracious speech!

 

You and me, and him, come along!

We will cut and snip each answer one after another

And make a crown of reminders adorned with yerkha bells

And put it on the head of humanity

If we could really do so then even the slightest motion made by humans

Might set the yerkha bells ringing, jingle, jingle, jingle, jingle warning of danger

 

དྲིས་ལན་འཚོལ་བ།

ལྗང་བུ།

 

ག་རེ་བྱུང་སོང་ ?

དེ་འདྲའི་ཁ་ཁུ་སིམ་པོ། དེ་རིང་གི་ང་ཚོ་།

 

བཤད་མ་འདོད་པ་རེད་དམ། བཤད་མ་ཤེས་པ་རེད

སྒྲ་ལམ་བཀག་ཟིན་པའི་གློག་བརྙན་ཞིག་ལ་ལྟ་བཞིན་པ་དང་འདྲ་བར

 

གློག་དམར་འཁྱུག་འཁྱུག་བྱེད་པ་ཙམ་ལས་འབྲུག་སྒྲ་མེད་པ་འདི

མིད་པ་བཀག་བཞག་པ་ནང་བཞིན

འོད་ཟེར་གྱིས་རྗེས་ལ་མུན་པ་དེ་སྔར་ལས་གནག་པའི་རྒྱུ་མཚན་ག་རེ་ཡིན་ནམ

 

རྦ་རླབས་ཀྱི་ལུས་པོ་བྲག་ངོས་ལ་བརྡབ་པ་ཙམ་ལས་ཆོམ་སྒྲ་མེད་པ་འདི

ཨམ་ཅོག་བཀབ་བཞག་པ་ནང་བཞིན

ཤ་ཐོར་རུས་ཐོར་ཆགས་ཚུལ་གྱི་མཛེས་སྡུག་དེ་དག་ག་ནས་བྱུང་པ་ཡིན་ནམ

 

སྤུན་མཆེད་དང་། གཉེན་ཉེ་ཚོའི་གཅེས་སྲོག་ཤོར་ཡང་ངུ་སྐད་མི་གོ་བ་འདི

ཚོར་བའང་ཤི་ཚར་བ་ནང་བཞིན

ག་དུས་ཡིན་ནའང་། ཆག་སྒོ་ཆེན་པོ་ཞིག་སླེབས་པའི་རྗེས་ལ་ལྷག་པར་དུ

བསམ་བློ་གཅིག་འདྲ་ཞིག་དང་། ཚོར་བ་གཅིག་འདྲ་ཙམ་མ་གཏོགས་མེད་པའི་ང་ཚོ

 

ག་རེ་བྱས་སོང? ག་འདྲ་བྱུང་སོང?

བཤད་མ་ཕོད་པ་རེད་དམ། བཤད་རྒྱུ་གང་ཡང་མེད་པ་རེད ?

དེ་འདྲའི་ཁ་ཁུ་སིམ་པོ། དེ་རིང་གི་འཇིག་རྟེན

 

དེ་འདྲའི་ཁ་ཁུ་སིམ་པོ། ཤི་བ་ནང་བཞིན་གྱི།

ནད་ཡམས་འདི་ནང་བཞིན་གྱི། ལྡེམ་མྱུར་ཅན་གྱི།

ཤ་གསེང་ནས་བཀོག་མ་ཐུབ་པའི་ཚེར་མ་ནང་བཞིན་གྱི

 དྲི་བ་ཞིག་འཚོལ་གྱིན་ཡོད་དམ

 

ཕྱི་ལོགས་ཀྱི་ལམ་ཀ་དེ་བཀག་ཅིང་། སྒོ་ཆེན་དེ་བརྒྱབ་པ་ཡིན་ན

ནང་ལོགས་ཀྱི་རྒྱ་ཁྱོན་དེ་དངོས་གནས་ཆེ་ནས་ཆེ་རུ་འགྲོ་བཞིན་ཡོད་རེད་པས

ནམ་ཞིག་ཁྱེད་རང་ལ་དྲིས་ལན་འདྲ་པོ་ཞིག་སྟེས་དབང་གིས་རྙེད་པ་ཡིན་ན

ང་ལའང་དེ་ག་རེ་ཡིན་པ་གཅིག་གསུངས་གནང་རོགས། སྐུ་མཁྱེན། གསུང་མཁྱེན།

 

ཁྱོད་དང་ང་། ད་དུང་ཁོང་། མཉམ་དུ་ཤོག་དང་། ང་ཚོས

 དྲིས་ལན་དེ་ཚོ་རེ་རེ་བཞིན་དྲས་གཏུབ་བྱས་ཤིང་།

གཡེར་ཁའི་རྒྱན་ཆ་སྤྲས་ཏེ། གསལ་འདེབས་ཀྱི་ཅོད་པན་ཞིག་བཟོས་ནས། འགྲོ་བ་མིའི་དབུ་ཐོད་ལ་བསྐོན་ཆོག

དངོས་གནས་དེ་འདྲ་བྱེད་ཐུབ་པ་བྱུང་ན། མི་རྣམས་འགུལ་བསྐྱོད་བྱས་པ་ཙམ་གྱིས་ཀྱང

སིང་སིང་སིང་སིང་ཞེས་གཡེར་སྒྲའི་ཉེན་བརྡ་སྒྲོག་ཡོང་གིན་མེད་འགྲོ

 

Translator’s note: Yerkha bells གཡེར་ཁ། གཡེར་དྲིལ། are usually small in size and made of metal and spherical shaped like yerma གཡེར་མ seed pods (Sichuan pepper). Tibetans use them, among other things, as adornment, musical instrument, wind charm, and warning bells. Yerkha might be rendered into English as a ‘sleigh bell’ or ‘jingle bell’ but I have left the Tibetan word untranslated so as not to erase its cultural reference and imagistic association. In a poem of many silences (imposed or otherwise) it is these yerkha bells – their yerma-like shape hinting at the ultrastructure of the COVID-19 virus – that makes a much-needed sound and alerts humanity.

 

Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang (A.K.A. Jangbu) is an acclaimed poet, writer, artist, and filmmaker  from Amdo. His documentary films include Tantric Yogi, Kokonor, Ani Lachem, and Yartsa Rinpoche. He is the co-author of the screenplay of the acclaimed film Prince of the Himalayas. Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang’s poetry, published under his penname Jangbu, have also been translated and published in different languages, including an English translation The Nine-Eyed Agate, and in French, Le Hachoir Invisibile. He currently lives in France.

Lama Jabb (Ph.D. 2013) is a scholar, translator, and poet. He teaches Tibetan language and literature at the University of Oxford. He has published many academic articles and two books, Modern Tibetan Literature: The Inescapable Nation and Studies in the History of Eastern Tibet. His research explores, among other topics, the intertextual nature of Tibetan literature and the interplay between the Tibetan literary text and oral traditions.

Liquor Bottle (Dizzy in a Karaoke Bar)

Sangdor

(translated from the Tibetan by Lowell Cook)

 

Swirl swirl, shake shake, tremble tremble, waver waver,

Murmur murmur, dim dim, vivid vivid, glimmer glimmer.

Some say “spin!”, some say “jump!”, laughter echoes bwahaha!

A neon red nightclub, a neon yellow nightclub.

 

Bawling and weeping, sweating and glistening,

Hands flay over here, feet fly over there.

Some call it “fun,” some “pain.” Whooping and hollering kihihi!

A vivid dance bar, a hazy dance bar.

 

The brilliant darkness, the dark brilliance,

Contrived conversations, uncontrived imaginations.

Somewhat orderly, somewhat scattered, hurly burly, mutter mutter.

This amusing music club, this depressing music club.

 

Shots of Chinese liquor, one after the other,

Bar guys and bar girls, wild after one another.

Semi-drunk, semi-crazy, hush hush, blah blah.

This bar steaming hot, this bar freezing cold.

 

ཆང་དམ། (KTVགཞས་བྲོ་ཁང་ཞིག་གི་ཡེར་སྣང་།)

སེང་རྡོར།

 

ཡོམ་ཡོམ་ཤིག་ཤིག་འདར་འདར་ལྕིག་ལྕིག །

མག་མོག་རབ་རིབ་ལམ་ལམ་ཁྱུག་ཁྱུག །

འཁོར་ཟེར་མཆོངས་ཟེར་བཞད་སྒྲ་ཐག་ཐག །

བྲོ་ཁང་དམར་པོ་བྲོ་ཁང་སེར་པོ། །

 

མིག་ཆུ་ཤམ་ཤམ་རྔུལ་ཆུ་ཁྲོམ་ཁྲོམ། །

ལག་ཟུང་ཚུབ་ཚུབ་རྐང་ཟུང་གཡུགས་གཡུགས། །

སྐྱིད་ཟེར་སྡུག་ཟེར་ཀི་སྒྲ་ལྡིར་ལྡིར། །

གར་ཁང་གསལ་པོ་གར་ཁང་མོག་པོ། །

 

འོད་ཀྱི་མུན་པ་མུན་པའི་འོད་ཟེར། །

བཅོས་མའི་གཏམ་ཡན་མ་བཅོས་འཆར་ཡན། །

བཀད་འདྲ་གཏོར་འདྲ་འུར་འུར་ཤང་ཤང་། །

གླུ་ཁང་སྐྱིད་པོ་གླུ་ཁང་སྡུག་པོ། །

 

ཆང་དཀར་པི་ཙེ་འཐུང་རེས་འཕོ་རེས། །

ཆང་འཐུང་ཕོ་མོ་འཁོན་རེས་འཆོར་རེས། །

བཟི་འདྲ་སྨྱོས་འདྲ་ཤབ་ཤུབ་ལྡབ་ལྡིབ། །

ཆང་ཁང་ཚ་པོ་ཆང་ཁང་འཁྱག་པོ། །

 

Sangdor (Tib. སེང་རྡོར།), from eastern Tibet, was recognized at a young age as the reincarnation of a Buddhist master, but he later renounced his title and robes to devote himself entirely to writing. His poetry is known for breathing new life into classical forms by playfully mixing colloquialism with recently coined words and various dialects with traditional proverbs. He is a prolific author with some twenty titles to his name.

Lowell Cook is a lover, reader, and researcher of the entire breadth of Tibetan literature, from the ancient Dunhuang manuscripts to contemporary poetry. His aspiration is to be able to share some of the richness of Tibetan literature with the world. He completed his MA in Translation, Philology, and Textual Interpretation at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Nepal.

Let Them Look for Tibetan Songs

Pema Yangchen

(Translated from the Chinese by Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani)

 

They nodded one after another

They never ate mutton, but they did that day

They never drank milk tea, but that day they did

They could not tolerate alcohol and yet carefully

Picked up three bowls of wine

And poured them down into their bellies

 

Those were three bowls of barley wine

With barley planted by my parents

Harvested by my sister

Washed by my grandmother in the river

Stored in a tall wooden barrel

And brewed into a clear barley wine

 

But we concealed the last wonder from them

We did not tell them that we sing Tibetan songs

When we serve wine to honor our guests

If the songs begin, you cannot cease drinking

 

Eyes wide open, they eagerly asked to hear Tibetan songs

Like hungry children staring at their mother’s breast

But Tibetan songs are hidden in the heart of the brewing woman

And grandma is on her brick bed now, a hundred miles away

 

Singing Tibetan songs

While brewing a new barrel of barley wine

 

They nodded politely

And left with regret

 

When asked, “Why not satisfy the wish of those from afar?”

You replied, “Let them continue looking for Tibetan songs.”

 

(The original Chinese poem was published in the Chinese language journal, Grasslands (草地) in 2018, volume 2.)

 

Pema Yangchen (Tib. པད་མ་དབྱངས་ཅན།), born in 1962 in Gansu province, began her literary career in 1982 and has published a large number of poems and prose in prestigious magazines such as Poetry Magazine, Ethnic Minorities’ Literature, and Star Poetry Magazine, and featured in numerous literary anthologies of female Chinese poetry. Her books include her poetry books Sun Shadow, Stars, and Selected Poems of Pema Yangchen besides a collection of essays Touching the Purple GrassShe has been awarded the “Bronze Speeding Horse,” a Chinese literary award for ethnic minority writers from Gansu province.

Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani (Ph.D. 2002) teaches the Chinese language at Texas State University. She has authored many academic papers and two books, Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change and Enticement: Stories of Tibet. Her research deals with Sinophone Tibetan literature. She is the founder of the Tibetan Arts and Literature Initiative.

Into the Wild

Zhabkar Tsokdruk Rangdröl

(Translated from the Tibetan by Peter Woods)

 

I’m going, I’m going, to the wild plains I go—

to a valley draped in bright flowers,

where I’ll rest on green grasses at ease;

listening to a symphony of bees, I’ll go.

 

I’m going, I’m going, to the wild woods I go—

to eat delicious fruits of the trees

in the shade of the forested eaves;

to listen to the cuckoo’s song, I’ll go.

 

I’m going, I’m going, to the wild hills I go—

to drink from cool, clear streams,

and take shelter in sacred caves of clay;

to watch the deer gambol and play, I’ll go.

 

I’m going, I’m going, to the wild cliffs I go—

atop red-rock peaks where vultures soar

I’ll make unhewn caverns my home;

to eat nettles and garlic greens, I’ll go.

 

I’m going, I’m going, to wild places as I please—

upholding the legacy of sages long past,

lifting high the banner of my line;

to set this dream-like body upon a hill, I’ll go.

 

I’m going, I’m going, I go now with all haste—

leaving behind this prison they call home,

I’ll show these jailers the back of head;

to leave these tears of craving and hate, I’ll go.

 

I’m going, I’m going, and this is how I’ll go—

riding my staff like a great stallion,

a delightful tune slipping off my tongue;

remembering my guru’s advice, now I’m gone!

 

Madhyamaka practitioners, come follow me!

Dzogchen practitioners, come follow me!

Mahamudra practitioners, come follow me!

All you practitioners of Dharma, just follow me!

 

(Tsokdruk Rangdröl once sung this on his travels through the remote mountain wilderness.)

(The original poem, nga dro nga dro wenpé pang la dro (Tib. ང་འགྲོ་ང་འགྲོ་དབེན་པའི་སྤང་ལ་འགྲོ།) can be found in Volume I on page 216 of Zhabkar’s collected songs, accessible on BDRC here.)

 

Zhabkar Tsokdruk Rangdröl (Tib. ཞབས་དཀར་ཚོགས་དྲུག་རང་གྲོལ།) (1781-1851) was a Tibetan Buddhist yogi and poet from Rebkong, Amdo. He studied with masters of multiple Tibetan Buddhist schools including Gelug and Nyingma and received Dzogchen teachings from his main root guru Chögyal Ngakgi Wangpo. He spent years in solitary retreats in various caves, woods, and mountains of Tibet.

Peter Woods completed a degree in Philosophy at the University of Virginia in 2009, and later earned a Master’s in Religion from Yale in 2015. He went on to study at Rangjung Yeshe Institute in the Translator Training Program and the Master’s program in Buddhist Studies as a Tsadra Scholar, living in Nepal from 2015 to 2019. Peter works with Lhasey Lotsawa Translations and Publications and their Nekhor project and serves as program director at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde California.