Bongtak Rilu’s real name is Rinchen Dhondup. Bongtak is the name of his birthplace and Rilu is a childhood nickname used by his family. Bongtak Rilu has published four books of poetry; the latest one is titled, “I am Mounted with a Golden Saddle.” His writings are simple and transparent, focusing on current social changes. His poems are written in a colloquial style, avoiding heavy ornamentation and multiple synonyms to offer greater clarity to his readers.
If you ask such a question
If someone asks me which is my birth-mountain,
I might point up to the upper snowy mountain.
Even though the mountain is lonely and homeless,
It was my father who put the prayer flags there.
If someone asks me who my brothers are,
Looking left and right, I might show them some herders.
These days they may be empty-handed beggars,
But once they covered the horns of a thousand yaks with gold.
If someone asks me where my home is,
I might slowly show them the black tent.
Even though there is no trace of the clay stove,
It is the stove around which my family used to gather.
If someone asks me where my birthplace is,
I might slowly point out the vast grassland.
Even if the rivers, mountains and forests are lame and crippled,
I have prayed to them with my body, speech and mind.
If someone asks me, “Who are you, young man?”
Even if I have no answer but to bend my back,
As tears run down, I will show them my late ancestors
And wonder: Will someone ever come, who can grasp their legacy?
Translated by Dhondup Tashi Rekjong and Tenzin Dickyi