India's Emptiest Corner
Nestled at the foothills of the Himalayas, sequestered between Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet, it is the least populous state in India and the last to join the country after its monarchy dissolved.
Visited by a guru in the 8th century who introduced the people to Buddhism, it became the seat of an exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader who rebuilt the ruins of an ancient holy site into a magnificent monastery: Rumtek.
If I had been born a boy in Sikkim
I too could be here.
I could abandon home and family and hair
like charred cremations cast to the wind.
I could relinquish my skin
to swaths of crimson cloth.
I could surrender Cadbury’s chocolate
before the golden gods levitating in meditation.
I could flee into the cosmos,
take flight into enlightenment,
I could be the 1005th Buddha.
I could be nothing and I could be everything.
I could be whatever I believe.
Instead, I was born white
with a womb
and a cross.
A Good Day for Prayers
On the border between Sikkim and West Bengal
It is a good day to hang prayer flags,
or so they say, auspicious
on such a sunny, windy morning.
On this bridge,
that trembles when
trucks with the painted kohl
eyes of goddesses transcend it.
Over which men carry their livelihoods
in twined cardboard boxes,
under which women lay out their lives,
bright fabrics to dry on flat,
they have hung prayers –
not to God,
or so they say,
but to you, to me, to us.
A perpetual wave unfurled before
Buddha ever left his palace.
Come, today we will hang new prayers
on this ancient string between
these arbitrary lines, and
we will burn the old when
we are through.