Amdo Sershul hoards his war stories,
deals them out sparingly to passers-by
in their times of need.
Empty your bowels, fill up with stories!
It’s not exactly cheap. No.
2 rupees for a piss, 5 for a shit,
not what you would call cheap.
But the stories have travelled far and
they come from a master storyteller.
He doesn’t talk about the actual battles,
about rifles and rounds and exit wounds —
No, he talks about before and after
and I can’t be sure how much that’s worth.
“… my friend Phuntsok, Kelsang Phuntsok,
took the pouch of Nechung chagney off his neck
and ate them like peanuts. His shit was orange
for days.” His shoulders shake like raven wings, his
sponge belly dimples and fills and dimples again
and he looks familiar, like other men who have
spent their wrath and look kindly on children.
Mother once took me to his house, for
undivined purpose. As I sat and watched,
he rubbed a paste on to the hardened clay that
coolies use as construction glue on windows,
carefully teased up one end and peeled it off,
the whole lining of clay coming away from its
resting place as easily as a dormant earthworm.
Then he took out the glass in his windows and
replaced them with sheets of plastic. Later
I find that in stormy weather, this plastic
swims in wind and rain, like the
liminal walls of a yak hair tent.
The tourists like to ask him questions.
He is a legitimate local attraction,
less photogenic than the Temple,
more interactive than the Library.
They like to ask him questions about the
fall of Sershul
and his dead wife and his yaks and the crossing
and sometimes they want to know why he cleans
toilets now and Amdo Sershul answers in a fine
verbal frenzy, words hollow and buried in spittle,
like bones turned inside out steeped in marrow.
I, Amdo Sershul’s neighbor turned interpreter,
intercept and interpret,
and I mostly tell the tourists —
buyers of Tshirts, purveyers of expensive
meals, photographers of babies,
stray dogs and sunsets — that
he cares about the environment.