Lanzhou Dust

A poem from the edge of the desert – by Lowell Cook


the day’s end brings us to the end of the earth

where dust has gathered for centuries

like aged wine, it has a rather refined taste 

swirling on the tip of your tongue and mine.


it’s quiet here among the endless ranges and mountains

who needn’t shy away from their bareness or bulges

so, on a lone patch of grass with modest shame

you quietly begin to speak to me in whispers of secrets.


you pretend not to be from here, not to be made from dust,

yet as you tell me what ‘desert’ means in your language

the feelings of desertion it brings to mind, you can’t help

but to dissolve into the landscape like a single drop of rain.


both of us know all too well the date of departure

is uncertain, yet certain to come all too soon

trying to shield ourselves from this sandstorm

it is with sorrow that we gaze into an ageless haze.


glimpses of turquoise sky are seen off in the west

smooth stone irrigated with canals of blue-green 

and it is that spot in which we rest

our single awareness, naked and raw, covered in dust.

Lowell Cook lives in Kathmandu, where he translates Buddhist scripture and Tibetan literature