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.