Adrie Kusserow’s poem about Bhutan in The Sun

Beneath The Sky, The Longing

Adrie Kusserow

— For Lama Shenphen

Bhutan, 2010

At the top of the Thimphu hills the sun leaves its afterbirth everywhere,

prayer flags drench the pines,

a monk scampers away like a red fox,

couples park their cars,

condom wrappers lodge themselves doggedly in the mud,

asserting their rightful place in the path to enlightenment.

Dingy Indian buses, painted gaudy as prostitutes,

careen along the battered road to the capital,

taking villagers to Thimphu, where lust for the West huddles like fog.

Packs of roaming boys with spiked hair and leather jackets

scour the streets for drugs, eye the Westerners hungrily —

boys who failed their exams, left their farms

to sit hung over at the dingy youth center, unemployed,

black eyes nibbling feverishly at the manic commercials

flashing from TVs;

they confess their uselessness to the Welsh monk

who has made it his life’s work to help these boys,

to bring them back into the fold.

Meanwhile, tucked above the cobbled streets

in the smoky Thimphu disco,

CNN shouts from its perch above the bar,

and schools of ghostly expats sway,

waving their drunken limbs,

lightheaded from this geography of bliss.

Alone, some lay their bodies down on stiff hotel beds

and all night try to let it go, let it go,

and still they come back to this density of longing,

hard kernel of desire on which the bulky psyche chips its tooth

and winces again,

then stumbles back to the dharma.

Outside the window barking dogs mince the night till it bleeds,

and the Bhutanese boy, high on glue,

wails a kind of love song

deep in the alley below.

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2 thoughts on “Adrie Kusserow’s poem about Bhutan in The Sun

  1. elaine ellman says:

    Adrie Kusserow has the rare ability to to create a beautiful poem about the sad gritty life of most people in the undeveloped world. The atmosphere she creates is so strongly redolent of of Bhutan, that we are kept squarely in that nation.
    I hope those who have posted here about the wonders of Bhutan will be prodded by this poem to explore the realty of the people in this nation whose governement has so successfully exported it’s Disney -like happy land propaganda.

  2. Kesang Yeshe says:

    In response to the previous comment, I’d just like say that the so called “happiness propaganda” is less an export of the Bhutanese government as it is an ideal imposed by western tourists who come in search of a ‘shangrila’. The GNH concept is by no means an advertising slogan but an approach to development that a country far from Disney-landesque is trying to use in an attempt to prevent the apparent pitfalls of purely capitalistic-driven growth. Unfortunately, the hype that surrounded it in global media is a force of its own and beyond our control.
    Those of us in the country are well aware of the realities you speak of and like all social problems, we will tackle them as any society, developed or otherwise, would. That being said, the relative stability and security that the people enjoy does make it easy to find a level of contentment, despite economic shortcomings, that some might call happiness. I wouldn’t paint an entirely grim picture of the “sad gritty life” of the underdeveloped world because life in a developed world obviously doesn’t ensure personal happiness. There is a line, however thin, between modernization and westernization and I believe the challenge for all of us is to acknowledge.

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