Zoji La Pass

at 12,000 feet
slopes steeply. Hard snow
cut into two
by winding tarmac—
a severe cold-slice
freezing to a stand-still.

A car shrinks
through this open-air tunnel—
ice walls on either side—
a geometric strait
resisting
the warmth of diesel’s grey metal.

Two yaks on the lower slopes
look up for colour
in this blinding white.
Their horns storing clues,
anticipating
the mood
of changing temperatures.

In this rarefied air
lungs shrink—
breathtaking breathlessness—
clarified oxygen is sparse here—
high-tone octane echo in the stark terrain.

by Sudeep Sen.

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