I was born into this world,
just as the Cultural Revolution descended
like a hurricane from Beijing,
engulfing Lhasa in the violent winds of reform.
I only remember the changes,
the alienation under a red flag,
how I could only become one of them
as I grew up in the schism.
Not only do I not remember
how the fires, ignited by that hurricane, burned,
nor the sequence of the burning,
I also have no memory
of earlier revolutionary fires.
The burning was not limited to one place—
it was everywhere.
Each curling flame opens
into an interminable blank space,
another hellish lacuna in the pages of history.
Through these chasms of raging fire,
I see the Norbulinka on March 17, 1959.
I see the Potala Palace on March 10, 1959.
I see tears overflowing:
the anguish over the violent
death of my relatives and my people,
the grief of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
as he fled in the middle of the night.
Each day the losses become greater,
as does my sense of impotence
to bring any of this back.
Even the vultures,
who are not of this godless world,
covered their faces and took flight.
It was declared that sky burials
were part of “the four olds,”
a custom to be eradicated.
The corpses, piled for years
upon on sky burial platforms
overlooking the Sera Monastery,
—Woeser, July 9, 2016
Translated by Ian Boyden