Luo Ying

 

SONY DSC

 

(China)

 

 

 

(From 7+2 Mountain Climber’s Diary)

 

 

SOTEN

 

Good-looking Soten has youthful energy

He loves putting mountains on film  has climbed Chomo Peak

As I trek across snowy ground  he records my ordeal

He asks me to smile and show that I’m at ease

In snowy wind he climbs above to get an eagle’s view

Tries to capture the stepwise ascent of my spirit

From the edge of a snowy slope takes a wide-angle shot

I get a flash of his shape plunging through space

He records me rising with the sun at daybreak

He records the sun and me settling into camp at dusk

Late at night he starts woo-wooing in his dreams

Some think it’s musical, some hear the mountain god in it

I surmise he is the mountain god’s child

A handsome youth  but also elfin

On snowy slopes he flies along with strong steps

The mountain boulders never tire of talking with him

Today I recite a poem with Cho Oyo behind me

He says the background is clear, the sound records well

Indeed  I need another kind of evidence

To prove my different way of living in this century

Steadfast like a ridgeline

Pure like snowpack

Aloof like a boulder

Elfish like Soten

 

              2008-09-08

              Cho Oyo 5200M Transit Camp

 

 

 

PRAYER FLAGS ON THE MOUNTAIN

 

Today I will string up a pavilion of prayer flags

To express my awe of the mountain god

I am certain that this matters to the mountain god

Because at dawn a marmot came to see what I was doing

I held up prayer flags and hatas for her to see

In friendly spirit gave her “Qiaqia Melon Seeds”

It turned out to be a bright, clear-sky day

Cho Oyo peak loomed like a great big father figure

Sitting there motionless he watched us

We lit sweet grass  laid out offerings  cans of Red Bull

We did a dance  sprinkled tsampa  yelled Zashi Dele!

Raised our voices so crows and marmots could hear

Big array of prayer flags  catches sun with five colors

Big array of prayer flags  snapping in mountain wind

Big array of prayer flags  shining back at the big father

We drank the Red Bull  ate up the offerings

We felt our own colors waving with the prayer flags

We already knew

This time the great big father would watch over us

Thanks to you

Our furry ground-dwelling brothers!

 

              2008-09-10

              Cho Oyo 5800M, ABC Camp

 

5

 

LITTLE MARMOT

 

I didn’t know the little marmot was my neighbor

I liked to have her coming in and out of view before my tent

After a snowfall she would pop out of a snowdrift

Her exquisite eyes would widen in surprise

Then narrow into slits because of the bright sun

That was how she watched the mountain and my movements

Late nights it seemed she never went to sleep

She quietly crawled into my tent-fly to look around

The beam of my headlamp gave her a fright

Maybe she thought its underground fire would scorch her

Unlike my ears, her ears were perfectly round

By their twitch I could tell she always noticed things

That day I dumped my piss jar in a stone crack

I saw her agitated shape fleeing from the spot

I hadn’t known that was her domicile

I was a terrible neighbor but not through cruel intent

She ran off and I saw no further trace

Only my ears remained, listening for her change of heart

Only my jar remained, and my regret over dumping it out

My civilized life was a bane to her existence

In the name of global trends we ruin nests of the weak

 

              2008-09-14

              Cho Oyo 5800 M, Camp ABC

 

 

 

GLOBALIZED YAK

 

Twenty-four yaks pack in our food and equipment

Nine breed yaks have energy they cannot release

Because of the U.S. sup-prime mortgage problem

Because of China’s macroeconomic planning

The world’s climbers feel the pinch in their wallets

The world’s white collarites are in a crisis of livelihood

Today the mountain is beautiful

Today the yaks have put on weight

However today’s climbers are fewer

And so are yak patties on the slopes

The breed yaks are not in a good mood

They run wild on the slopes and down below

Upend their loads and burst their carry bags

Across the wild slopes strewing global manure

Italian climbing shoes float down creeks

American energy bars are treats for crows

Japanese anti-perspirant briefs are nightwear for rabbits

They make love while bedded down in underwear

“JUIBO” snow goggles get cracked on rocks

Reflective fragments like gleams from globalized eyes

Mountain dogs have gagged on “LIUBIJU” stinky bean-curd

My “BLACK DIAMOND” staff was dragged off in a snow-cock’s beak

To barter with a certain Swiss girl for “CARMEX” lip balm

Which soothes blisters caused by too much kissing on the sly

The breed yaks have upended my globalization

I couldn’t deal with globalization in the first place

Of course I can’t do anything about breed yaks either

Terribly crude with great bodily strength, so I think

Monogamy fits with global imperatives after all

 

              2008-09-10

              Cho Oyo 5800M, Camp ABC

 

1

 

BORDER CROSSERS

 

Covert migration is an international problem

I know it deserves to be discussed that way

But looking out from the front of my tent

I see a death route for border crossers

This is a glacier at 6200 meters

On the far side is the Chinese border and Nepal

In 2003

Covert migrants killed border guards and seized weapons

Some say people smugglers charge 10,000 RMB per head

From 5800 meter camp you see the crossers’ dot-like shapes

You can also see their fallen bodies on the glacier

Some are chased away, some become amputees

Because they have to cross the border zone at night

These are high-mortality hours for climbers

In time of mortal need they beg the guards for help

The guards are stuck with the job of carrying them down

These are 18-year-old children with no high altitude training

They drink up water from the border guards’ canteens

The guards themselves often pass out on the glacier

When these youngsters recover they try to cross again

Sometimes they form groups and set ambushes for the guards

I really don’t know how to judge these border crossers

My tent is facing a 6200 meter glacier

This is a site of tragedy, filled with death and violence

 

ADDENDUM

In the climbing season of 2003

People smugglers crossed the 6200 meter glacier

Border guards went out to stop them

They saw a woman passed out before a big boulder

The young border guards ran forward to help her

Thirty thugs leapt out from hiding and stoned the guards

They killed the guards and took their guns

They fled by night towards Nepal

A young sergeant chased after them with two soldiers

The two soldiers fell along the way, overcome by altitude

The sergeant shadowed the thugs alone

The thugs fired their weapons until the last bullet was gone

The sergeant ordered them to put down the guns and run

The sergeant trekked the hard road back, carrying guns

Crows circled over his head ceaselessly

He went snowblind, ran out of water and rations

On the third night he ran into foreign climbers

The climbers gave him food and water

If he hadn’t met the climbers he would be dead

 

              2008-09-15, Cho Oyo

              6900 meters, Camp ABC

 

 

 

UNCONTROLLED SLIDE

 

Deep snow-mist  it feels thick enough to engulf the world

Snow falls by inches  the fixed rope is crusted with ice spines

Footprints that bloom like snow lotuses are soon gone

I cannot make out if my steps point to Heaven or Hell

Soundless, formless snow-mist seems to harbor leering ghouls

With muffled steps I trudge into Hell’s very atrium

Then loose snow gives out  I plunge like a gull from the sky

I roll downslope  a spell of somnolence overtakes me

A edgeless cloud of soft snow buoys my helpless limbs

It dawns on me: there is no ground to stand on in this world

Ramming arms into the snow  I clamp onto the world’s spine

No thought for cries of pain  my death flower stops blooming

Standing up slowly  I see light of sky begin to show through

I free my D-ring, solemnly raise it to eye-level, hitch to the rope

Striding back to the main trail as if urged on by drumbeats

Ganmi waits smiling outside the tent and I smile too

Ah yes..not being dead I have a right to wear this grin

 

              2010-05-17, after summiting Chomolungma

              App. 9:00a.m. at 8000 M Assault Camp

 

 

 

THINGS THAT HAPPENED IN THE MOUNTAINS   (5)

 

Heavy snow is falling on the mountain

We won’t be going anywhere

We can only stay in a tent and listen to stories

Listen to Team Leader Wongya tell stories of climbing disasters

 

5

I’ll tell you what happened to a handsome young American

Wongya held his butter tea a long time before he could speak

That one was a tall, good-looking youth, well-spoken and kind

He could ski the riskiest routes coming down from high peaks

For three straight years he was an eagle in these mountains

For three years he took on the most challenging slopes

Eagles in the mountains knew him on sight

They would cavort behind his fantails of snow

Crows in the mountains were afraid to watch his doings

They held him in awe as they did the mountain god

When he stepped onto skis he was a prince of the mountain

With gold hair trailing he was a deva-god of the world

From the zenith of life he came soaring downward

He’d make you forget the lowdown ways of our kind

In the end  a freakish change of wind blocked his route

He flew down a slope from which no man returns

Wongya saw countless eagles swooping down from peaks

The wilderness rang with mournful cries of eagles

Crows spread the bad tidings with raucous sobs

Climbers pulled off breathing masks and paid respects

Even now nobody knows his name

We wish to see him again soaring on the slopes

Wongya said a certain eagle would often cry out to him

A lone wolf on the glacier would make keening howls

Climbers on the peak would release the Stars and Stripes

The flag would whirl up and drift into the valley

Male eagles would go spiraling down behind it

The lone wolf would run wildly under it

I think it must be that handsome youth, missing his kinfolk

 

              2008-09-14

              Cho Oyo 5800M, Camp ABC

 

 4

 

LAST NIGHT’S WIND

 

Last night’s wind was a demon wind

Just now I think it tore the canopy of heaven

From deep in the cosmos it came in fury

I even heard rocks on the slope screaming

All I could do was cower in my sleeping bag

I think this wind was like a binge drinker

Stripped naked and waving an axe about

Just escaped from some cosmic dungeon

Unleashing its hatred on the human race

I sat up dressed, awaiting its barking summons

But at daybreak it just dashed about crazily

Ruben and Saife had a dreadful night

I said  take it easy

No need to blame the wind

 

              2009-11-24, 11:47

              Aconcagua Camp 2 (5400 M)

 

 

 

WAITING ON MOUNTAINS

 

I have waited on many mountain peaks

Sometimes due to snow, sometimes wind

When snow drifts over my tent at midnight

I think I may end up waiting for death

When wind wants to tear and upend all things

I imagine myself as an airborne rag

Stiffly spinning, not catching sight of the land

It is minus 40 degrees in that sky, mind you

In fright I call someone’s name now and then

I never call “Father” or “Mama”

Because they would suffer and worry

Might as well call out my own name

When the storm stops I am never elated

Waiting has made me aloof

Given the time  what would I say to the world?

Right now  the world keeps me waiting

 

              2009-11-27, 11:30

              Aconcagua Main Camp

 

 

 

YOU’VE TRAPPED ME ON A PEAK, ARGENTINA

 

You’ve trapped me on a peak, Argentina

Is it because I’m an alien element?

I expected to dissolve my cares in Latino revels

But you’ve captured me on your Aconcagua

I promise never to steal so much as a rock

On the peak I will sing your praises

You should know I write beautiful poetry

How could you bear to freeze my fingers?

Argentina  At last I’ve seen your tangoing mountains

With crashing boulders sounding a drumbeat

Ready for a man to dance on a giant scale

Argentina  now I know your amazing powers

Maybe I was the one who let you down

Because I didn’t bathe before this climb

But they sent my stuff ahead on muleback

Argentina  are you holding that against me?

 

              2009-11-27, 11:35

              Aconcagua Main Camp

 

 

 

ON MULEBACK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN

 

Riding a mountain trail is no picnic

Self-willed mules won’t take an extra step

Yet they won’t eat the bread I give them

They only drink brown water from glacial streams

With legs mired in slush they stay balanced

They manage to curb their desire to gallop

They have an urge to end their labors quickly

When fording rapids they are unfazed

Like Heaven’s pillars their strong legs ferry my ass

You should know they earn only 150 dollars

This is probably the world’s most unfair labor deal

Seeing bones of their own kind in a ravine

They merely hasten their steps

I think they recall their cohort’s death

But can’t be bothered to explain it to me

Sold to be rendered as glue or killed by a fall—no difference

That’s how it is with mules  no use complaining

 

              2009-11-28, 00:01

              Mendoza, Diplomatic Hotel

 

 

 

AT MY FEET, AN ARCTIC FOX

 

Lovely snow-white vixen kneels looking up

We’re gulping down drinks and seal meat  she only grins

She bewitches like the daughter of Yang Guifei

As if descended from a different plane, marmoreal white

Beauty taken at its height is pure and tantalizing

I imagine apple blossoms in her world of snow

The petals are her bed, and spun ice is her gown

Her lithe walk can set the whole world swaying

No living things can catch the meaning of her faint gentle yelp

At death’s door bearing great pain she summons up a smile

Who killed whom  thereby slips the grasp of sad philosophizing

The long night’s wind stirs her outer fur and ear-tips

She stiffens slowly  to keep from frightening fish under the ice

I take her picture  catch a gleam from mournful eyes

In truth  that is a look reserved for angels

 

              2011-04-04, 20:53

              Arctic Circle, Longyearben Hotel, Rm.330

 

 

 

NAKED MAN

 

This man goes about like a leaf

Without a stitch on he looks me in the eye

Like a dried vine he is gaunt and graceful

When he opens his mouth he calls me brother

Feathers in his hair proclaim successful hunts

A boar’s tusk hangs at his chest

Walking naked in sunlight he glistens

Talking naked his boar’s tusk seems to smile

I secretly figure how thick my clothes are

Counting up the layers that cover my heart

This jungle is a many layered fringe of leaves

This is a summit where nothing is found

I am a climber in wind-proof clothes

I dare not encounter wordlings with naked trust

 

              2010-07-24, 21:11

              Irian Jaya jungle

 

 3

 

A TRIBESMAN’S BOW AND ARROW

 

Noontime a tribesman shows his bow and arrows

Aims at a tree  the tree trunk quakes in fright

His buttocks are dark rocks squeezed dry

His bamboo arrows are green thorns from Hell

He says he once hunted heads, his teeth are bright white

A boar’s tusk still hangs from his neck

Climbing, bridge-crossing, drinking  his bow in hand

I guess he misses his warlike past

In the capacity of warrior  he serves as my porter

He watches the jungle  waits for enemies to show

When setting out he disappears ahead

But he always knows my every move

When I slid downslope  his face peered from leaves

The bow slung on his back waves with each step

In long jungle nights maybe he weeps over this

 

              2010-07-27, 10:35

              Irian Jaya

 

 

 

A SALT-SECRETING TREE

 

In the jungle  salty fluid seeps from a big tree

This could be tears of a witch’s daughter

Inch by inch it dries to white crystals

The tribesmen sprinkle it on potatoes

At night a wildcat gathers it to haul home

Its ghostly green eyes glisten knowingly

A woman hauling salt glides through a clearing

Beads of water show her gleaming footprints

I imagine the witch in a treetop eating beans

Will she change me to a porcine salt licker?

Anything could exist or happen in the jungle

Like a big tree that weeps and trickles salt

With a wave of branches it pours salty rain

The jungle only weeps for itself

As a woman on a far hill starts a cooking fire

Saltwater trickles from a big tree

 

              2010-07-28

              Irian Jaya jungle

 

 

 

SLEEPING WITH SWINE

 

Last night I slept with a herd of swine

An extended family of three or more generations

A tribesman took my payment hiding a smile

Assured me the pigs would be quiet under my bunk

But I knew the creatures were quite displeased

Far into the night they squealed with all their strength

They had no idea what a good fellow I am

Perhaps they took issue when I passed gas

Thought I was disrespectful to female and junior pigs

What good would it do to complain of sleeplessness?

This night was time for saying goodbye to my climb

In a whisper I told Andersen’s tales to the grunters

At dawn they were snoring beneath my bunk

I greeted the sow and quietly rolled up my bag

Goodbye  to Chaya  and to my sleepless night

 

              2010-07-28

              Mountain village in Irian Jaya

 

 

 

WHY WE GO JOURNEYING

(4)

Journeying  as the sun rises and goes down

The body’s warm vapor turns to ice or frost

Footsteps  become fatigued and halting

Hence a question—to walk onward or not in this world?

Watching crows fly home behind who-knows-which mountain

A journey takes on philosophical meaning

For instance…how far under ice will one’s death be frozen?

Returning home which door of the world will one enter?

How many arms and legs to take back from my journey?

That is…should I return as mule or as half a horse?

Such a big event may be decided on a journey

On a journey…I am no longer a classifiable animal

Just now…no need for more explaining of ice-sheets

I have just finished pissing on the snowpack

Its yellowness melts down towards earth’s core

This is proof of my journey across the ice-sheet

 

              2009-12-24

              Third Day Rest Camp tent

 

(5)

Journeying…over an wasteland or waste of ice

My shadow could be anywhere

I cannot see if it wears clothes or not

Journeying…is really walking after my shadow

Take a look…at emptiness walking through desolation

This may be a prelude to cerebral stroke

As I calculate sips of water left in my pack

Journeying…body odor like a rotten yellow pear

Most of all talking with a marmot that can’t fly

Journeying…may be like drunken flirting or coquetry

Just wait…what brings it to an end may be a stone

Once it knocks  crows come flying to scarf edibles

Late sun by this will have dropped from sight

What happened will have quieted down

Afterward…the ice-sheet stretches coldly

Straight to every dead-end of the world

Why do we go journeying?

 

              2009-12-24, 12:47

              Third Day Rest Camp tent

 

 

 

SNOWY NIGHT

 

Snowy night…the bright sun-disc rises slowly

Her rosy tint suffuses the snowy plain with red

I watch her shine in polar night that never darkens

I think loving someone must be like this

Ah sun…sliding along just over the snowpack

A little bit like my speed of trekking

I follow her on foot not marking my route back

Anywhere one gets to is the end of the world

Turning toward the sun I also laugh coldly

I wish to tear off her indifferent veil

For hours she may be blocked by clouds

Leaving me alone on the ice days from anywhere

Snowy night…still the darkness does not come

I don’t quite know how to deal with this

Like having a wife who never shows resentment

And always feeling that the guilt is mine

 

              2009-12-24, 14:25

              Third Day Rest Camp tent

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS EVE ON THE SOUTH POLE

 

Today is “silent night” on the South Pole

After dinner we eat a cake together

Each sings carols in his own tongue

Kai hangs up a picture he did in pastels

He gives each of us a postcard

On the South Pole this is without precedent

Over the ice cap I see planets twinkling

Each one a pale reflection of our sun

Christmas Eve here is lit up with splendor

One half deep-blue, the other pure-white ice

Our tents are red like boots of Santa Claus

I believe that the Lord above can see them

He will sigh at the warmth we bring to the Pole

Christmas Eve  the ice-cap is like a giant silver tray

Holding us up in front of God

 

              2009-12-24, 20:40

              Third Day Rest Camp tent

 

 

 

I WALK IN A STARRY VOID

 

As sky shows its blueness, the ice-sheet is undisturbed

In perfect stillness it becomes the night firmament

Thousands of stars twinkle ceaselessly

Spotless snow becomes a white heaven of sorts

Where my footprints are lit by heavenly bodies

As tiny stars watch from their respective distances

Each time I tread on those starry sparkles

They give off a surprised crunch

It is nothing like the sky in high mountains

This sky of snowpack sparkles at all hours

Which may be related to the world’s excess darkness

Snowy stars reflect the changing sun in unison

One can almost hear them singing in a choir

Whatever happens there should be grounds for joy

Because their sparkles are so bight and assured

 

              2009-12-25, 19:28

              Fourth Day Camp tent

 

 

 

GARDEN OF THE LORD

 

Clouds in the sky take changing shapes

Sun on the ice plain keeps changing colors

It lights up the plain like a hovering disc of ice

Rays suffuse the ice with limitless radiance

An ice-plate takes on a rosy red hue

Blue distance is like a pasture of swaying lavender

A gold-yellow slope is like the Lord’s sliding board

This chromatic plain has witnessed great events

Like a young girl I fall into a waking fantasy

Waiting for God to come walking over the plain

His towering stature growing larger with each step

He waters His garden with fluttering snowflakes

He never speaks, His features are severe

In His garden He simply paces here and there

Now I too am pacing through the Lord’s garden

Dear Lord  I won’t presume to break a single branch

 

              2009-12-18, 11:17

              Patriot Hills Camp tent

 

 

 

I HIDE IN MY SLEEPING BAG FROM VASTNESS

 

Returned from the vast, silent ice-sheet

In my sleeping bag, glad to be back alive

On the ice I feared a giant eagle would grab me

Or a giant whale would breach the ice in fury

I kept wondering what hid behind the horizon

All that muteness made me feel stifled and helpless

That huge expanse shrank me to beetle size

Some kind of gnome seemed to watch my moves

In this sleeping bag I feel warm and peaceful

Right now  any sound I hear sounds like gospel

I would rather be banished to fight with Hell’s demons

Than cross an ice-sheet where curses have no object

In a world of absence your spirit is uneasy

On this still ice flat you can’t even talk to yourself

So you quickly burrow into your sleeping bag

Like taking cover in Mother’s womb

 

              2009-12-18, 19:35

              Patriot Hills Camp tent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

Tr. by Denis Mair

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