Poetry, Translation

Voices from Tibet4 min read

New poetry from Amdo, translated by Bhuchung D. Sonam


Editors note: All of these poems appear in the collection Burning the Sun’s Braids, which was reviewed by Lowell Cook yesterday, and are published here exclusively with our thanks to Bhuchung D. Sonam, their translator and editor of the collection. Read more Tibetan literature at his site Tibet Writes.


A Stranger

Chen Metak


This is my guesthouse

Where I close my eyes for a day.


Please come in,

Sit on this chair,

Enjoy a cigarette.

I have a bottle of white wine

A plateful of sunflower seeds

Topped with two apples.

This is our small feast.


Please relax,

Why do you stand up?

I will never ask where you come from or

Where you are going.


I will not ask why suddenly you knocked at my door.

No interrogation here.


Ah, stranger

Drink your wine

Nibble on sunflower seeds,

Have an apple, and

Then you can leave.


After you go away,

Shutting the door tightly

I will have to cry –

For that person

Whose shadow the moon erased

Whose colour the rain washed away

Whose name the crow plucked out,

For people like me, and

For the ownerless who survive outside the door.


Without a sound

I have to cry once.


Further investigation for this man



If this man is a dog with the chain of time hung around its neck

He certainly does not resemble the night guard watching the sheep

Who mumbles meaningless sounds about someone he does not know.


If this man is a prisoner carrying his favourite basket on his back, who

Hates police and not the law, there is a huge

Difference between him and the small-minded person who is unable to sleep

And is being eaten away by anxieties.


If this man resembles all-knowing lamas and other outstanding personalities

Who can speak on religion or translate scriptures

Who can also talk splendidly to his wife and children,

But he still does not look like the ones close to our hearts.


If this man is the poem that only Yangchenma1


He is certainly different from

The new poetry, unrefined

And with uncertain melody,

To which the new generation bind their love.


Since it is difficult to know this man,

This being invites further investigations.



Kyabchen Dedrol



A flower and a pair of twin angels

Are not enough to create jokes.

Though I knew early on that

I am a wheel shaped from wood,

My legs and hands still

Want to stretch out –

What is the root of everything?

What is the root of everything?


The root of everything is a human blood-stained nail,

Each time when the sky clears

Because of the power of sins

I feel as if being freed from the world,

Let’s go fast. Let’s go fast.

The home where we live in peace

Resembles a bag.



Who is stretching his legs and hands from a crack of a rocky hill?

Don’t hide, tell the truth.


The world is either blood from your head

Or belly of a woman,

Oh, a child,

The castle of the Lord of Death walks

Clenching its long-hidden fangs at us.

Let’s go fast. Let’s go fast.

The home where we live in peace

Resembles a hole.



The sweet tree I crave in greed

Turns into poison in my stomach,

When the veil is lifted from my face

I realize I was just a vapor seen in a mirror,

Kye! Mundane person, are you too busy?

The very fast-moving time is not a stick

Which can be altered and restored.

Whose seed was the poison?

Whose merchandise was the poison?

The poison is not a stick that can be altered and restored.

My wings are rotten skin,

Who does not know that it has become like poison?

My girl and the light-filled house are not a stick

Which can be altered and restored.

Everything is not a stick to be altered.

Let’s go fast. Let’s go fast.

The home we live in

Resembles a river.



These wild animals living in peace,

How can you eat them?

As the world gets constricted

Fangs of the animals stretch out into the sky,

Ah, the power of the mantras is lost

Ah, dirty water is mixed with rain.


A river has chased it upstream,

It must come down bearing its sins.

Let’s go fast. Let’s go fast.

The home we live in

Resembles a sea of blood. ∎


Burning the Sun’s Braids: New Poetry from Tibet, trans. Bhuchung D. Sonam (Blackneck Books, 2017); all poems republished with permission. Also buy the book on Amazon in India, or on eBay for those in the US.
  1. Translator’s Note: Yangchenma – also known as Yangchen Lhamo, Ngawang Lhamo, Wangchukma, and Saraswati in Sanskrit – is believed to be the goddess of knowledge and arts. She is said to represent consciousness and wisdom and is also considered the goddess of sound and speech. It is said that at the beginning of time the southern ocean stirred, creating millions of sounds that united into a single note. Yangchenma is believed to be the representation of this unique note.