Mukahang Limbu – Two Poems


The Gurkhas
After Kubla Khan

In Xanadu, sunless troops of Gurkhas bathe
with kukris smiling, thirsty by their waists.

There, soldiers hang their cattle chains
high atop the coral pillars & sing

those hoarse Himalayan tunes stretching
from their far mountain belly, sing songs

that clenched their yak-milked bones
when their war-cry filled the trenches.

Their throaty echoes rumble through the wreckage
of this copper city where the sea slipped

on her feet, shook her flesh out of place, leaking
fat flames & golden pagodas. Listen. Outside

a mother runs like boiling rain holding
a little lilac dress searching the ruins, her

footsteps, blood sprouting rhododendrons, as
she laughs with tears & laughs, her laughter asking

where were you? But this, the heaven that used
to touch the earth, is the country the soldiers

have returned to. Here, the inked numbers on
their chests are shadows jumping on a single

spot. Here, the names of children are
a cold breath shivering in their father’s tongue

lost like the memories of home, forgotten
by the sounds of bullets whistling, of machine

heartbeats, & stories of one-handed men catching
bombs like picking fruit. Here, they lean

backs against sea-black stupas as the sepia photos
of mountain children giggling, float between

their ribs. Here, where the gods no longer live –
neither Western nor Eastern,

the Gurkhas – can you hear them sing



How to forget your mother’s language
After Sophie Dunsby

first – you learn that you will never be your Father or your Mother


how you will never inherit the hot black kiss of an iron pressed on your
mother’s thigh the brand of her marriage, she always hid behind her lungi

how you will never learn that the fabric tightened to her waist
was her way of folding new flesh no longer white no longer pale


how you will never inherit your Mother’s screams the ones she cupped in the
night swallowing her own silence as the head of her child tilted out of her arms

how you will learn that her evening prayers were music for the afternoon rain
that she was once the girl playing on those wet steaming street


how you will never inherit her poor courage stealing the green mangoes
from the hospitals with Nepalese writing you can no longer read

how you will never learn that she ran differently then her whole
body giggling holding those mangoes to her chest shaking with breath


how you will never inherit her one dress hemmed by the hands of her Mother
collecting bottles for rupees she hid inside her bones afraid of liquor hands

how you will never learn there is a thirst that makes Fathers thieves
how they eat prayers how they rob their children and wives


how you will never inherit your Mother’s need to run
from school afraid of the things she didn’t have –

how you will never learn that it was the pencils neon rubbers and rulers
she would never forget to buy her son


how you will never inherit why your Mother no longer ran
how you will never learn why she stopped wearing the uniform

she used to share



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Mukahang Limbu is a Nepalese writer based in Oxford. A 3-time Foyle Young Poet, and winner of the Outspoken prize, he has been published in England: Poems from a School (Picador, 2018), and Nascent.