Your letters arrive frail from Nepal.
Stamps of antelope and monkey-dancers, laughing
though they have not seen fruit in days.
Outside Manang, women watch you.
A nomad wearing dangling jade
waves you into her tent. From her hands
you take a bowl of yak-milk. Delicious.
You would remain, but the sky
already rots with water.
Crossing the pass at Thorong La, your brain
begins to swell. You sleep in the arms
of a Sherpa who feeds you opium, picks
leeches from your body. You would die,
but the rain is too lonely.
In the valley his family touches your chest,
the curly black hair, and says, “Fine. Very fine.”
You swim with buffalo in the river. A child
washes her mother there. She pulls Offa piece
of the dead woman’s shoulder and shares it
with her father.
You are wearing white robes when I see you.
I finger a gift of Himalayan fossils
and cannot name one bone. This was my home too,
now every room smells of woodsmoke. Rags blessed
by the Dalai Lama hang at the windows, yellow muslin
and ink fading as they fly prayers
onto a humid East River night.
In Nepal, you tell me, love is easy,
all wheels are spun clockwise, and the dead
are buried comfortably in the walls
of their own homes.
© Sandra Alcosser