After the shelling of artillery, with their long graceful telemetries of explosives in flight—our stuccoed faces crumbled and sheared free from the stone, but we did not bow down; we stood with our backs to the sandstone cliffs, just as we did in 1729, when Nader Shah—the Napoleon of Persia, the Second Alexander— fired cannons to bring the people to their knees. These new soldiers, do they know the old proverb: if you discover the Buddha along the path, strike him down. I am Vairocana, the one of many colors. The red one beside me, my old friend Sakyamuni. Soldiers pay out double ropes in descent, on rappel from the crowns of our heads with dynamite in their satchels. Such strange gifts they bring, their faces sweating with exertion, lips chapped by thirst. Do they know that within us the stone bleeds vermilion, sulfides of mercury, carbonates of lead. Within us still more Buddhas sitting cross-legged, their robes in cinnabar, aquamarine, the creatures of dream gazing at the water’s edge. These men hanging from braided ropes—they place their charges in the sockets of our eyes. They lodge them in the drums of our ears. And though our lips have crumbled to the earth below us, our lungs are now open to the wind.