gathered inside this tent
with its smoke hole open to the Great Sky.
I wasn't there to watch your feet
stretch into stirrups, or to guide your arm
as you raised an arrow to bow.
What can I say? I've failed to show
how a Mongol can make a mountain
change places with horses and men.
But even as frost leaches my breath,
I wish to be a father who fills your saddle bag
with what I've learned,
to teach how being a leader
is to master pride,
more difficult to quell than a wild lion,
or anger, harder to subdue than the greatest wrestler.
Never think of yourself as the strongest or smartest.
When animals climb to the top of a mountain,
they cast a shadow
along rocks where they stand.
Remember to say only what needs to be said.
A loose mouth leaves crumbs for the wind
to heap upon the plates of your enemy.
Have vision and goals,
easy to throw away once a fast horse
and jewelled women adorn your arm.
Conquering an army
is not the same as conquering a nation.
You conquer an army with tactics and men,
a nation by winning the hearts of its people.
Loyalty to family is what you have as brothers
and the only thing you will ever have
in this smoky world of dreams laced with cinnamon.