Sky Burial

Lhasa, Tibet

To wake before noon, to arrive early
at the burial ground, to stand shadowed by

               the monastery with its red and white walls joined
                        like a cross-section of flesh and bone, its layers
               and layers folded into the mountain.

               Nothing grows higher than the waist:
the ground is constant refusal, canít be broken, takes what it will.

Flatter still: the 18-meter wide platform pocked with knife-marks, circled
by birds of prey, stiff and dark,
                                                   their rawboned wings tracing and retracing
                                                   hunger gyres above the splintered bodies.

               Their calls lick the thin air and eclipse
the morningís propositions, the guide saying,

                      Take oxygen packs, wear layers. Saying,
                      Donít be uneasy, no clouds today.

Closer, the abrupt curvature of the necks, the wrinkled pink heads
like fists, and the inscrutable faces that know
                                                                         their trajectory, know the ritual

begins with incense and blades, and ends
                                                                   nothing. Endsó

bellies so full on a busy day like today they canít fly
               but hop back up the stony ridge instead.

Someone turns away, another sneaks a photo, the priest delivers
the scheduled violence.           No, not violence.

To be underground is to be interred in hell;
they are grateful to have their lives picked clean.

Willie Lin is currently a student at the University of Virginia.

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761