Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Manduhai the Wise

In the Year of the Tiger
when people could not sleep in their tents,

or birds in their nests,
I, Manduhai, Mongolian queen,

did not lift the tent flap of the man
whom people thought to share my bed,

but carried the spirit pole of my ancestors,
Dayan Khan, a cripple whose

bones were massaged with camel's milk
warmed in a silver bowl. I rescued the boy,

strapped him to my horse in a basket,
raised him on the battlefield

to be Great Khan, heir of Genghis.
Girls threw offerings of milk in the air.

Later when the steppes became mud,
we stepped through mud together,

and when it was cold,
we warmed out hands by the same fire.

With him, my waters gave birth to eight sons
and together we covered Mongolia

with the hooves of our mares.
From the Tuul River to the Orkhon,

we were two shafts of one cart
drawn by a white camel.

And when I could no longer
bear armor,

his memory was silk
on my heart and limbs.