Snow and Flowers

Perhaps no other literary work so perfectly and succinctly captures the way in which Spirit and Soul can engage in a tug-of-war with our hearts than “Here in Katmandu,” by the American poet Donald Justice. In this instance, the poem is accompanied by photographs taken by my students in the course of our adventures together in my Asian Horizons program, adventures that repeatedly took us to both mountains and flowers.

“Here in Katmandu”
Donald Justice


We have climbed the mountain,
theres-nothing-more-to-do500There’s nothing more to do.
It is terrible to come down
To the valley
where-amidst-flowers500Where, amidst flowers,
one-thinks-of-snow500One thinks of snow,

as-formerly-amidst-snow500As, formerly, amidst snow,
Climbing the mountain,
one-thought-of-flowers500One thought of flowers,
Tremulous, ruddy with dew,
In the valley.
one-caught-their-scent-coming-down500One caught their scent coming down.

it-is-difficultIt is difficult to adjust, once down,
To the absence of snow.

Clear days, from the valley,
One looks up at the mountain.
What else is there to do?
prayer-wheelsPrayerwheels, flowers!

let-the-flowers500Let the flowers
fade-theFade, the prayerwheels run down.
What have these to do
with-us-whoWith us who have stood atop the snow
atop-the-mountain500Atop the mountain,
flags-seen-from-the-valley500Flags seen from the valley?

It might be possible to live in the valley,
to-bury-oneself-among-flowers500To bury oneself among flowers,
If one could forget the mountain,
how-setting-out-before-dawn500How, setting out before dawn,
Blinded with snow,
one-knew-what-to-do500One knew what to do.

meanwhile-it-is-not-easy-here-in-katmandu500Meanwhile, it is not easy here in Katmandu,
Especially when to the valley
that-wind-which-means-snow500That wind which means snow
elsewhere-but-here-means-flowers500Elsewhere, but here means flowers,
Comes down,
as-soon-it-must-from-the-mountain500As soon it must, from the mountain.

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