Songs of Lao

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Tell me the name of the universe

Tell me the name of that flower
Clutched to the chest of the Khmu woman
Shaking, with solemn grace, in hands of the girl at prayer
Its white petals adorning the pockmarked Buddhist relic
A sweet scent in the wind that crosses the Mekong

Tell me the name of that village
Nestled in a bowl between mountains
Steep slopes reflecting candlelight from the windows
Seated at the hearth with a child in his lap
The father, eyes turned inward, awash in bottomless love
The Hmong girl smiles in front of the spirit door
Ancient legends delight the ears of children
Quiet and serene, the starry sky
Protects the world below

Tell me the name of that temple
Standing on the banks of the River Nam
A pile of columns and eves in gold and vermillion
The young acolyte, eyes bright and transparent
The old nun, enraptured with the emptiness beyond
The echoes of mantras and prayer beads resound from the walls
The world expands, its limit unknown
The universe, tell me its name