Khyber Pass


They have all come by here
Since the dawn of human migration,
Sweeping through in the times of the Vedas
Or with Alexander, who had just renewed his cavalry.

Tribes, armies, scrawny pilgrims
Just out of the Hindu Kush,
All of them struggling up in a desperate rush, a hope, a desire,
More fervently than the rocks that have tumbled on the road.

The ascent was always risky
Between the ambushes, the plundering, and the fear.
On the Afghan side, indeed,
Only tales of violence or frantic escape.

But no such thing in the lens of Marc Riboud
Who sees a couldn’t-be-more-peaceful bike
Choose, at the summit of the pass, the path for cars
Rather than the one for donkeys and camels.

What irony or accident of History
Wished there to be, at precisely this site of slaughter
A moment that slid off the track in 1955
For a sole glance, so light and so mischievous?


André Velter