town of water

town of water *

Lijiang

the water seemingly
the colour of the stone
that channels it
flashes of blue-grey
the sky of course
& the dark of timbers
over it or eaves above
the water always surprising
your way through the streets
at any hour
tumbling the quiet
under

a stone bridge like an ear
cupped to the waters
we made a language
of pictures** drawing
much from the
innocence of animals
clouds and first
drawn impressions
in a grown child’s hand
this our language to
write all of what
we needed then
& anyone still needs

seeing off the dead
giving the pure living
beasts their due

a mountain to the north***
snow down the ridges
turning to unclouded water
in clefts ever shadow
beginning the high the low
waters of this town
carrying the stars
& the moon
on a sheep skin
strapped to a
woman’s back.****

beijing, july 2001

*reference to Lijiang, an historic town in Yunnan province in the south-west of China. Lijiang is home of the Nakhi, or Naxi people.

**reference to the Nakhi pictographs, which their religious texts are composed from. The Dongba, Tomba or Tompa symbols are a system of glyphs used by the shamanistic Bon priests. The Nakhi possessed no alphabetic script for everyday language.

***reference to the mountain north of Lijiang, Mount Satseto, whose summit is sacred to the Nakhi.

****reference to the traditional pattern (stars and moon) worn by Nakhi women.

Copyright © 2001 Peter Le Baige.  All Rights Reserved

2 thoughts on “town of water”

  1. Peter, this is one is particularly beautiful. I love how the language mirrors the meandering flow of water itself. This piece brings a very welcome calm to the reader.

    Like

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