in sinuous grace. On her flanks, the dun hills,
pebble- and boulder-strewn, stand guard
aslant, dark swept back sentinels,
time and weather scarred.
On eternity’s edge, a gompa clings.
On the endless Hemis plain
wheels claw at treadmill miles.
On the sandstone armour plate
the questing eye picks no defiles:
there's little to mitigate
the mind’s fatigue, or jog the stupored brain.
At Pangong Tso, sandhills separate
sparring blues. The water’s sparkling insolence
cocks a snook at the timeless sky,
leprechaun to a giant. An outboard rends
the stretched stillness, and somewhere high,
an unlikely gull flecks cerulean slate.
In the Nubra bed a lone dromedary
hints at ancient silk: the powder sands
run millennia through their grains,
the detritus of vanished lands.
And a willing imagination sees cairns
in landscapes of woodcut history.
On the ritual outcrop, Diskit’s hive
jealously keeps its suspect secret.*
On all fours I straggle up this strange Golgotha
to snap its grisly treasure, dyed jet
with dubious centuries. How it got here,
God knows; and the lama’s tale’s lost, as I strive
to get this relic of Asian ravage
in my frame. Down below,
the driver’s ready. From the river’s floor
I shoot two peaks with residual snow,
tantalisingly nameless, before
the weather, kind so far, in minutes turns savage.
*Diskit Monastery in the Nubra valley has in its possession an ancient skull which lama lore attributes to Genghis Khan.