Traces in Flowing Water


Image: Underwater photograph of the surface of a mountain stream, looking at the language of flowing water. Detail from the installation of "Entering the River" (2012-2014) by Ian Boyden.

Traces in Flowing Water

Remember that day in early autumn, midday

on our pilgrimage around the Drepung monastery?

A woman who sat on the bank

of a mountain stream gently

dipped a few sheets of shining copper

again and again into the flowing water.

Dipping them, lifting them.

The copper, engraved with images of bodhisattvas,

engraved with words of bodhisattvas.

The copper pieces, bound together

with sturdy twine, resembled a brush,

the water its paper upon which it wrote a prayer.

Each copper sheet was a printing block

that stamped its impression into the flowing water,

its images changing in the blink of an eye.

Imprinted with the images of bodhisattvas,

imprinted with the words of bodhisattvas,

this water meanders through this world of dust.

And this: those who cannot see

how the water is stamped offer a futile smile.

And this: I, who can see, believe without doubt

and so the copper’s prayers reveal.

—Woeser, July 14, 2020

(Translated by Ian Boyden, July 15, 2020)

Constellations of Humanity

Each luminous dot on this map represents one reader of this poem. As the number of readers increases, the stars begin to cluster and form an increasingly detailed constellation. My intent is to show how brightly a poem glows across our world. I welcome your light.

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