This Magazine

Progressive politics, ideas & culture

November-December 2010

Great Canadian Literary Hunt 2010: Sky Burial by David Kootnikoff

David KootnikoffWebsite

We’re posting the winners of the 2010 Great Canadian Literary Hunt all this week. Come back daily for amazing new poetry, fiction, and graphic narrative. And stay tuned for the 2011 contest announcement, coming in January…

The path behind Ganden
cuts through a clutch
of wild flowers, continues
beneath a flutter of prayer
flags and rises to the crown
of a hill. We walk towards
a large, flat stone where
the body was divided
from itself. Instruments lie
scattered like a toolbox emptied
in a slaughterhouse: rusted
machetes, axes, a blood-stained
rope. To the side a fire pit
cradles jigsaw pieces of charred
bone in its ashen basket: a skull
plate, a jaw missing teeth, broken
chunks of spine. Ochre stained
tsampa, soaked with blood, is left
for the vultures to clean. Beyond
this cutting board the valley rolls
out its tongue, licks the sky blue.
A gust of wind tosses up a maroon
coloured cloth, spins it in the air
like a monk rising as the birds circle
above. On the drive back to Lhasa
we pass a lamb still breathing,
its eyes flaring as blood
spills from its mouth.

David Kootnikoff was born in B.C. and now lives in Hong Kong where he writes, plays music, and teaches. His website is
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