In a guest laden living room to the side in a corner, / I tried to wear a coat like skin, // And in that moment, that precise moment, / I’m asked, “Are you Tibetan?”
Tibetan-American Anxieties: Wanting Sounds in a Barren Throat
Lhabab Duchen1 brought the red robed gathering,
And with smiles, I welcomed them silently.
Behind my teeth squirmed an orphan tongue,
Abandoned by its mother long ago.
With the awe of a mute, I watched them unpack
The silnyen2, the rolmo3, the gyaling4.
Back then I couldn’t even read the pecha5
To fill my empty lips with sound.
I escaped from the shrine to the heat of the kitchen –
Scurrying aunts and silverware trays.
Ama la6, I know I have to serve the tea. Please don’t scold me;
My identity is unstable.
In a guest laden living room to the side in a corner,
I tried to wear a coat like skin,
And in that moment, that precise moment, I’m asked,
“Are you Tibetan?”
Crushed to bits by a gravitational vortex,
My heart slammed through the floor and the septic.
Hiding in the bathroom to “fix my hair.”
Mirror, show me a yak not an eagle.
In the frigid Snow Land in a steaming tent,
A nomad family drinks thukpa7 together.
Their brilliant smiles gleam in my eyes,
An outsider looking in on their happiness.
1 Festival of the Buddha’s Descent from Heaven
2 Tibetan cymbals played for peaceful ritual practices
3 Tibetan cymbals played for wrathful ritual practices
4 Tibetan woodwind instrument used in ritual practices
5 Tibetan scripture
6 Eng. Respected Mother
7 Tibetan noodle soup