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More poems and contributor notes in Chinese feature

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Baitao

Baitao





from Arising from an Eagle




Tears I Have Inherited


Passed down by mothers
the black-eyes contain
the everlasting blue sky

A drop of tears dense with acrid salt

Passing the sober four seasons
I begin to near the embankment's whirling clouds,
the end of the wilderness where sand drifts, and then
An azure sea

It spreads before me like a dream
A sea pooled from a thousand tears
churning all things
Mist rises from the surface
Is it the dust stirred by horses?
Is it the milk spilled by cows?
Why do I smell the sweet aroma of the wildernesses?
Why do I smell the dampness of the earth?

I will not tell that my blood from the grey wolf and white deer,
as in a dream, is blue
I also will not tell how many of my kinsfolk
spend their whole lives pursuing water and pastures
but there is only desert and thirst
What has enticed them to live on?
In the past, faraway
there were people singing this kind of Mongolian song
Now one after another they have all left
burying their dream-song
in a distant place

There are only mothers, generation after generation
Breast mounds, in the wilderness
capturing pool after pool of
bitter salt seas



Behold, a River of Lightning on the Xanadu Steppe


In the instant of
meeting the flow of lightning

Mongolians! A name explosive like lightning
splitting the storm clouds. The path of flight across the sky
was opened by them, the world of pounding hooves so far away
These people who ride cloud horses,
ride the lightning that flashes in the eyes

Passing highlands after highlands

The lightning in the sky
is but flowing water on the earth
horses strong and swift, only in this one moment
do my lightning dreams
make the ancient river suddenly shimmer
A person's life
is most like the wildernesses' four seasons,
the most beautiful and resplendent of dreams
all gathering in autumn, that lightning of heaven and earth



The Golden Saddle


A ten-thousand mile journey, for the sake of this one saddle?

Golden Saddle! Your past brilliance blankets many horsemen's
skeletons
Those who craft saddles
with shaking hands and blood soaked hearts
in the sandstorm cannot hear the horsemen's cries

Those careening on horseback
those leaping in the saddle
have traveled very far
On the sea of the Xanadu steppe
the empty golden saddle
sways in the rolling waves of grass
Stars beneath the cold moon flicker and die in
the ten-thousand mile highlands

Kinsmen who polish the saddles
use your two hands to tell me
if the domain beneath the horses' hooves reaches the steppes
Kinsmen who soar in the horses' gallop
use your eyes to tell me
when passing over endless sand dunes, just how far does the Tengger stretch?

The golden saddle,
an empty golden saddle,
was here before I came
will remain after I go
The golden saddle silently
awaits . . .


Translated by d.dayton