At the December 12, 2015 Art of Poetry event, Kim Blum-Hyclak talks about the Steve McCurry photograph that inspired her poem. Photo courtesy of Roger and Ginny Sanford.
after “Monk at the Jokhang Temple, Tibet, 1999” by Steve McCurry
Prayer flags, squares of blue, white, red, green
or yellow hang like laundry on lines
up ragged Himalayan gorges. Hung
with a Buddhist’s intonations
and mantras for wisdom or to appease
elemental gods. Thrones rest on Kang Rimpoche,
sister to Everest, their valley footstools set
higher than lesser mountains.
Prayers drift down ridges,
Lamas’ chants quieting as snow
to blanket the world.
A centuries-old tradition until
Chinese warriors cross and zigzag
over Himalayan passes, smashing sacred idols
burning strings of flags,
prayers windswept as ash,
scattering a people. Out of the rubble
of ancient monasteries rise
new flags, strength in cloth
despite destruction of stone. Prayers call
to refugees and pilgrims
Peace Compassion Patience Return
Tibet’s topography and history written
in ridges and valleys on the face
of a benevolent Buddhist monk.