The town absorbed in pooling dusk
is poplar masts, all willow-tossed,
and lost beneath the valley’s toil
of darkening green. Like a sea
in oils — and just as still — that’s seen
to lap-unwrap some jutting coast,
this mass has set in a boil against
its sheer surrounds of sand-dry earth.
They floored an ocean long ago:
this furred and whorled and welling dark
in arabesques unfurled below,
the jagged surge, its patient shore.
While Buddhists say that when the Phags-
Pa Dhitika was here he drove
a lake away, and that’s when Leh
emerged as land. The story stays.
As Buddhist lore assumes the town
submerged in its evening lake,
we stand uphill, my dogs and I,
a motley, straggling band of four —
one dogs my heel, two others stray
to scent and mark the Tethyian shore;
and all intent, each one alone,
we slowly turn towards our home.