I haven’t posted any Mongolian poetry in quite a while, too long, actually. I remedy that today with a favorite of mine by Mongolia’s preeminent living poet, Mend-Ooyo. I came across “The Cranes” for the first time in his poetic and magical account of growing up on the steppes of Daringanga in southeastern Mongolia “Altan Ovoo” or “Golden Hill”. I have the good fortune to be one of his friends on Facebook. When he posted the poem a few days ago I asked if I could share it with my friends and he was kind enough to give me permission.
The black-faced cranes referred to in the poem are demoiselle cranes, as shown above in a photo I took last year, which can be seen in many parts of Mongolia.
(The ballad of cranes)
by G.Mend Mend-Ooyo Gombojav
The black-faced cranes excitingly
Flapped their wings and flew in Mongolia every spring.
They landed by fluttering their blue beards
Where they wished to do.
They joined in pairs
In this spacious in steppe
They exhausted in long flight
To come to their habitual place.
Birds habituated to the local people
Year by year.
They laid two spotted eggs near the animal farmers.
And hid their eggs in this place
As they deified the human beings.
Who knows it.
They venerated the virgin steppe
Which was habitable and safe for them.
They did not suspect
When they laid their eggs
There is a maxim.
If you cast your shadow
Over newly laid eggs.
It spoiled eggs.
But someone overlooked
The custom of his own place.
And pocketed these eggs.
And came to his home without a hitch
Two poor cranes trod on the pool of rain-water
And plumed their feathers as if without wings
And summered there alone.
When autumnal wind rumpled their plumes
Two cranes approached a farmer
Who took their eggs.
There was a toddler with bells in his shoes
Who was toying in a long distance from his home.
No adults heeded it.
The toddler crowed to catch these cranes.
The cranes gradually kept their distance
From the farmer’s home.
The toddler chased them,
And did not fathom it.
As his mother’s breast felt a rush of milk
She called her toddler thrice.
There was no sight of the toddler.
Nobody knew it.
All the members of the farmer family and his neighbours
Raked through the vast steppe.
They did not find their toddler
Even a fellow of his small boots.
They did nor fathom that
There was a deal of toddler
With the eggs.
Nobody knew it.
There was a flight of cranes
Were honking over the farmer’s gher*
Was it a shadow or tear?
There was a stain on the boiling milk
In the pot over a fire.
*gher –the Mongolian nomad’s tent; or house – yurt