In Central Asia Nomadic Horsemen
— A home without a morin khuur is like a widow
In Central Asia nomadic horsemen carved
horse-heads on the pegbox of their violins.
Early upright, two-stringed, horsehair violins,
morin khuur: always carried on the saddle.
One hundred tail hairs for each stiff string,
taut spring on the sharp stroke. Thick whinny
& the black boughs’ lyric scrape in biting wind:
willows in a white light−glittered, frozen, bent
by bitter weather. The snap & slide of leather
strap on oiled saddle. Steel’s exit from a sheath.
Their burly horses chew dry grass & lick the snow —
Morin Khuur could make a song to calm the feral mare
or sooth the tame one’s labor. To coax your foes’
remaining horses off of glory’s gore-soaked field,
or to settle spirit chatter, the restless ancestors
of these surely superstitious early horsemen;
songs to stop their turnip skulls from stirring
under the endless steppe & winter’s marshes
or under summer grass stretched tight with seed.
The wood should be willow. The strings horse-tail.
The bow horse-tail. The face may be of newborn
lamb or camel skin. The resin larch or cedar. Legend
says that Sukhe made the first two-stringed violin
when his beloved horse was killed out of spite
by a jealous rival. Gut & muscle. Coat & bone.
In a dream the horse came back to his horseman
and said now master make of me a two-stringed violin —
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