Saturday, October 31, 2015


The sign outside the monastery reads:
“Near this spot, karma first entered the world.”
Beside it, a small slot in a wooden box
painted white with “DONATIONS”
scrawled across the top in red letters.

The cobbled track between the stalls & shops
is treacherous & steep, 
a maze of muddy potholes & cliffs,
karma’s answer to ‘tourist traps’ –
a holy obstacle course 

for the pressed & dressed 
& impeccably plain,  coming & going
outside the money exchange,
where dogs & beggars compete
with American Express in 15 languages,
& lunch is a handful of flies
next to an old woman working her fan,
frowning over a brazier whose coals are eyes.

When they’ve discovered I’ve been
to the edge,
to the place where karma originated,
they’ll want to know why
what it was like,  so I’ll tell them:
as payment for my crime,
of ignorance & desire,  of time –
a memory of footprints,
in my village of heads & hands
grasping for change,  like all those other places
where karma originated:
a street corner, a familiar smell,
a fall from grace,  
every beggar an answer,  meting out
an earned revenge.
All places are recognisable in time.

Outside the place where karma originated,
I ask someone if they’ll take my picture
as a kind of souvenir, something to see,
evidence I was here,
or there,  or anywhere.
They hold my camera upside-down
as if to dare the logic from its cage.
No smile. No cheese.
The shutter shudders,
the light burns in
& the smallest part of me escapes
into the prison through which
we all must pass in order to be free.

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