Ode to a Blade of Grass




If I could live like you


Amidst the roar of the forest

Perhaps I wouldn’t live in my dreams

My words won’t falter so much

And my mind will not be plagued

By insidious thoughts

Gripping pain



And nothing is ever good enough.


If I could let the dewdrop slide

Just like you

In complete equilibrium

My prayers will be spontaneous

My breath softer

Perhaps my soles won’t feel the sharpness of the trail

And no matter what happens

I’ll walk on

Amidst criticism

Against rejection

For there is always rain.


If I could be as unsullied

As truthful and grounded as you

I may see that the soil from which you spring

Is the very depth of universe



Hurling a branch of a very old poem

That winter wind once carried

But here it returns

Falling right next to me

As if it never left.


If I could remain with you until the mist disappear

To catch a glimpse of Mila in repose

Touch his outstretched arms

And his single white cloth covering the ground

I can embrace

This mirage

This phantom journey

With its aimless wanderings and countless days

Spent in odd pursuits

Amongst which is an incomplete ode

To a lithesome blade of grass.


Entangling Rangdrol


If you are wondering “Entangling Rangdrol” is my deliberate attempt at ironic juxtaposition…

After my last reading of Dhondup Gyal’s poem, I received several requests in my inbox from readers and friends to re-upload the video with Tibetan subtitles. Originally, I had decided against subtitles because I wanted the reader (rather the listener) to engage in active listening but on second thought here is the revised video with flashing Tibetan subtitles.

The English translation is courtesy of Tsering D. Gonkatsang, University of Oxford with some poetic brushes by yours truly.

The Torrent of Youth

The clear blue sky
The gentle warmth of sunlight
The vast expansive earth
The beautiful fragrant flowers
The high majestic mountains…

Even more delightful to behold
Is the cascading waterfall
Coursing its way through a sheer cliff!

The pristine droplets, pure white
Shimmer as if a peacock’s feather
A parrot’s plumage
A pattern on silk brocade
Indra’s bow

The water’s serenading sound
As if the youthful song of Gandharva
The divine music of Brahma
Saraswati’s voice
A cuckoo-like tune

This is no ordinary waterfall
It possesses a magnificent presence
A heart without fear
An indomitable courage
A majestic form
Bejewelled in finest ornaments
An enchanted melody…

Is the waterfall of youth of the Land of Snow.

The Twentieth Century
Tibetan Youth of the 80’s
Their courage and innovation
Their solemn struggle
Their youthful refrain

O Youthful Torrent
Torrent of Youth!
From where did you acquire –
Such fearless heart
Unwavering pride
And boundless strength?

The rain that falls in the three months of spring
The streams that sprout in the three months of summer
The nectar of frost and hail in the three months of autumn
The ambrosia of ice and snow in the three months of winter

And more!
Water from the snow, rocks, slates and woods
Water from the mountains, valleys, ravines

In short!
Water of auspiciousness
Water of virtue and prosperity
Water of fulfilment
Water imbued with eight purities
Water adorned with the three perfections.

One hundred and eight different rivulets
And tens and thousands of tributaries
You! The unifying water of friendship
You dare to step off the precarious cliff
You! The wish fulfilling water
You dare to leap into the steep gorge
Amassing fresh new waters along the way.

Your mind wide and open, your form inspires awe
Untouched by vanity, undefiled by arrogance
Your course runs deep
Imbued with a power to cast aside impurities
Unblemished body and mind
Your youthful beauty continues to flourish.

O Waterfall!
You are witness to history
Guide of the future-
Carved on each pristine droplet of yours
The rise and fall of the Land of Snow
Shining on every glistening droplet
The destined growth of the Land of Snow

Without you
How could one whet the sword of language?
Without you
How could one sharpen the knife of arts?
Without you
The tree of healing sciences cannot bloom
Nor can the fruit of Buddhist Philosophy and Logic ever bear fruit.

Even in your crystal mind there still linger
Wounds of history
Chronic scars of old battles
Lesions of ignorance
Dregs of conservatism…
Yet how can they persist?

Your youthful strength and innate wit
Will never let the biting cold of the three wintery months
Numb your mind in its icy fold
And even the hundred sharp cuts of a storm
Can never hurt or halt your flow.

The reason is
The source of your water lies in the snowy peaks
And your tail is merged in the ocean’s depth
The long history of your unabated flow
Gives us pride and honour
The melodious chime of your flow with time
Lends us inspiration and power

Can you hear, O Waterfall?
These questions from the youth of the Land of Snow
Can you hear?
How can you let the supreme steed of Poetry suffer thirst?
How can you let the elephant of Rhetoric suffer heat?
How can you let the lion of etymology get drunk with conceit?
How can you let the child of Dramatics get orphaned?
Who will inherit Astrology’s legacy?
How shall we welcome the youthful groom of science?
Who shall be our groom for the bride of Technology?

Very well! O Waterfall!
The answers sent by your clear and harmonious melody
Are forever etched in our heart as if carved on stone.

A thousand brilliant accomplishments of the past
Cannot replace the present
Yesterday’s salty water cannot quench today’s thirst.
History’s shrivelled body is lifeless
If bereft of today’s soul
The pulse of progress cannot beat its rhythm
The blood of evolving spirit cannot flow
And a forward step is even less likely!

O Waterfall!
In the glittering ripples of your endless waves
And the splashing of your crystal droplets

You are
The strength and resilience of the new generation of the Land of the Snow
With your ceaseless flow
And your rumbling pulse

You are
The inspiration of the new generation of the Land of Snow!
Conservatism, cowardice, superstition and sloth
Our generation has no place for them
Backwardness, barbarity, darkness and reactionary ideas
Our times can never shelter them.

Waterfall, O Waterfall!
Our hearts and minds in pace with your gait
Our blood circle in rhythm with your flow

The future ahead
May hold more twists and turns
But the youth of Tibet without a trace of fear
Indeed will surge forward to open new paths for our race

The masses striding in unison
They! The new generation of the Land of Snow
The harmonious music
The marching footsteps of the youth of Land of Snow!

A propitious highway
A glorious responsibility
A joyous life
Songs of struggle!

The waterfall’s youth shall never fade
The torrent of youth shall never dissipate!

This is
The waterfall that springs forth from the voices of the youth of the land of Snow!
This is
The waterfall that flows within the hearts of the youth of the land of Snow!

Dhondup Gyal (1953-1985), widely referred to as ‘the Father of modern Tibetan literature’. He wrote under the penname of “Rang-drol”, meaning self-liberated. This ground-breaking poem “Torrent of Youth” (lang-tsho’i rbab-chu) penned in 1983 caused a sensation when it was published, both for its radical literary innovation and bold nationalistic sentiments.

“Muchness” and a reading of Dhondup Gyal’s Waterfall of Youth



Continuing on with my theme to break through conservatism, here is my reading of Dhondup Gyal’s popular poem Waterfall of Youth. The poet’s message to Tibetan youth, his vision of the future and possibilities is inspiring.  My other agenda in doing so is to promote poetry as an alternative for those who can’t sing if they life depended on it. Often when we gather as a community or as a group we sing Tibetan songs and perform dances but popular poetry/prose recitation doesn’t happen as much. This video is to plant that seed… perhaps at the next gathering you can opt to recite a stanza of Tibetan Poetry

Spoiler Alert and an Auditory Warning:

My central Tibetan accent may not capture Gyal’s Amdo aesthetics but it would be defeatist not to try. Wouldn’t it?



Tonight the rain fell on a barren mind one muddy splash at a time

You! Said my heart – you are mine

You are fractured little thoughts melded into a haphazard string

Coddled by many sleepless nights on voices of dead writers and disappearing poets.


As you grew my body expanded in anticipation

When I saw your silhouette I clasped my palms hysterical with relief

I sang you borrowed words hoping to appease your ears

But soon you started to run beseeching the sky to open imagination.


The last I was in Ling searching for golden hoof prints

I saw you scatter every thought, I saw you strip away our language

Sometimes you appeared as if a vulture feeding on any carcass

Sometimes you were timid as if a pika on the disappearing grassland.


The nomads told me to let go, to let go of any association with you

On calm spring nights they say you will stop by my tent to smell the smoke

I should be mindful not to empty the cup of rancid tea nor pick the flies on its surface

For those are the only things that remain between you and me.



The streets of Lhasa have their own shadows

And shadows have their way of living

If you stare long enough you may see them flicker and talk

Stand in line; wait for your turn as if a pilgrim in the early morning

Lean and press your ears to the peephole

Listen to Jokhang’s lost sea and its demonic mistress…


Time is eternal in the dark sea

The waves have swallowed my last shriek

In the madness of my grief I sit, my face upturned

Are you capable of kindness to yourself?

Then look at me!

I am you exiled by fear, chained underneath a blatant lie.


Those who have seen her have never returned

Vanished under broad daylight as if imagination

Flitting in and out, no one knows if they live or die

I hear they join the shadows across the city

It must be true; of late their numbers have increased

I see them hover in groups when prying eyes have gone to sleep.