Galsan Tschinag

 

Beyond the Silence

 


Translated by Richard Hacken

From Galsan Tschinag, Jenseits des Schweigens
(Frauenfeld, Switzerland: Waldgut Verlag, 2006)


 

Game of Fate

 

The pouch of fate

No doubt resembles

A third stomach

Whose slimy-rotting cud

You were trying to pick clean

It kept us hidden from each other

In its clever creases

For so long and only

In an hour of laxness

Set us both free

Seeing you

Faithfully squat

In the darkening hut and busily

Pluck at the steaming goo

As at the slippery seam of salvation

I try to weigh

What our common campfire

Mattered and whether

It might stand up to the invading

Storm of winter

 


 

Milky Way

 

Milky Way in view and

Mother in mind

I send out wishes

In every direction

Bright, soft and warm

 

Continuation

Of an interrupted deed

 

Morning after morning

The pudgy, weasel-quick woman

Ceremoniously arrayed and erect

Stepped up to the incense column

With the milk bucket in her left hand

And the juniper-root spoon with thirteen slits

In her right

Sprinkling the udder-warm milk

To sun, mountain, steppe and river

Showers accompanied

By rhyming couplets that often

Grew long and passionate

 

At evening we saw on high the traces of what

Had happened here on earth that morning:

The Milky Way

Still flowing along

Just a touch grander

 


 

Annunciation

 

I will be coming

But for now I send

These words before me

The settled dust

Of my spirit

So that

Warm as souls

It can meet the flighty ovum

From your innermost nest

And fertilize it

For the time has come

For you and me

To have our child

And may it be

As the children of others

Round and warm as a heart

Soft and solid as kidneys!

 


 

Words of Gratitude from a Threatened Man

 

Now rising

Now subsiding

Your fire-breathing

Hydrophobic pulse

Beats along with me

As I live beyond

Mountains and steppes

And whether it throbs, whether it whispers

I always accept it

With precision and gratitude

With all my

Senses

Sharpened by desire

Tempered by abstinence

The blood from your heart

Runs through my veins

In the attempt

To keep a body long surrounded

By marauders of every kind

From giving way

To destruction

 


 

Lines from the Sky

 

We unwind degrees of latitude

At both ends

And hurry towards each other

Me on wings

You on wheels

 

And the place we meet

Will hang somewhere

Between sky and earth

Just where the travel-weary dreams

Land for now

 

Will we, two dreams

Of whatever substances ourselves

Drop away?

Or united as one

Rise up anew to the stars?

 

11/16/2003, in the sky from Ulan Bator to Berlin

 


 

To the Nomad Boy Who Had to Learn How to Use Eating Utensils

 

From the quarry of time I knock off nuggets

Strip them down to years and months,

Peel away the days and hours

And the youth who stamped them into the pit, the stone

On his way to hill, the red-cheeked

Nomad boy, comes to light, wakes

And stands, trembling and sweating

Invisible to outsiders, next to me.

 

I, the hill

Now closer to mountain than stone for years

Jut out protectively over him

I father, grandfather

Of my own being, dwell in the

Front room and at the festive tables

Of the continents I have conquered

And know how

To break open so many hard shells

To take out the fruit

And to get drunk

On its sweet-bitter flesh

 

Yes, my boy

You were a sinless sinner

Who had to endure the pains of hell

In a world that knew not what it did

 

Now comes my late revenge

For you against the scars

By implementing everything to pieces

Knifing and forking eggs, cake and pudding

And brashly announcing my readiness

Before the rolling camera to crack

Nuts with those extended metal fingers

But then with my hands and mouth

I work as if in my own yurt

Grabbing here, ripping and biting there

And then licking and smacking my lips

 

Donít be shocked, my child

Since you were not permitted this and would

Have quickly been sneered at

Wild man me is now permitted
Even to force out words

That serve my dignity

Ah yes, such was the world created

Into which you ventured out

And to which you relinquished

Your youth as tuition in the

Heady hope of one day being granted

The crown of King.

 

Berlin-Bad Lippspringe 11/19-22/2003

 


 

Morning Sun on December 5th

 

Per Maria di Merano

 

Lovely, when in December

Over snowy woods and fields

The sun blossoms to life like summer

Here and there splintering off in sparks

Now and then breaking out in flames

And pouring out intensified, purified light

Along the paths and passageways

That you and I

Wandered up and down

In blazing consciousness of so much life

And such solid human harmony

 

Twice as lovely to know

The sun-fire will

Track down and tie together

The dizzying dash of two pairs of footprints

To set their wavering paths ablaze

So that the wetness trapped in ice

Might finally rise up

Returning

To breath-warm, tear-bright water

Seeping

Into soil joyful to conceive

 

Loveliest of all

If on a May morning

A deer child or a human fawn

Agitated in the brimming chalice

Of a young and modest heart

Were to stand still

Right in front of a footprint nestís occupant

The sky-blue forget-me-not

And were to recognize its illuminated gaze

It is one of the endowments

We granted and left behind

For all animated life forms

And now the recipient

Comes face to face with one of them

 

12/5/2003, Michelangelo Express, Bolzano-Munich

 


 

Novemberliness

 

Fog pressing down

†††† Rain drizzling

†††††††† So novemberly

Here and there bent

†††† Treelike beings

††††††††††††††††††††††† Weep

Oily-carboniferous tears

†††† From eyes unseeing

††††††††† Under heavy lashes

I, novembering along

†††† Through inner countrysides, know

††††††††† The sources of unseeing and unfeeling

The souls that slipped away

†††† When their bodies

††††††††† Damned to achievement

†††††††††††††† Were beaten black and blue

Now form after form

†††† Comes into view and swells up madly

††††††††† Strangling viscous and superfluous

†††††††††††††† Mucus shapes out of its own innards

I who had

†††† My outer layer polished

††††††††† To hasten through the day

Might here and there

†††† Take hold of one of the oppressed

††††††††† And whisper to him

You still have it better, my friend

†††† Than many others on the treadmill

††††††††† In this labyrinth of delusion

You may show yourself

†††† As you are

††††††††† You are permitted to weep and do

†††††††††††††† Not have to play a role.

 

November 2002, 11/19-20/2003, Hildesheim Ė Berlin - Hildesheim

†††


 

Reporting on the Situation

 

The breast hills

Over which the wind

Of many winters stumbled

Drift my way, staring at me

In the firelight

Of the sinking sun

With the weight

Of developing mountains

 

Rising up to my full height

I present myself and sense

Peace in me, surrounded

By bright coolness

Of the glacierís peak at my back

And I recognize the situation

 

I a mountain

Stand tenaciously

In the cross storm

Of jealousy and greed

And of their misbegotten child

Blind hate

 

A terrestrial formation myself

I watch

With celestial circumspection

While stones fly at me

And I do not forget

To suffer proper pains

When they beat

Against me

 

Zagaan sar in the Year of the Red Mouse, 2/19-25/1996;

1/7/2004 Ulan Bator

 


 

Song of the Hedgehog

 

Laming

The winter cold

Taming

The daily burden

Claws gape open

Threatening to snap shut

Your prince

With his family seat

At the altar of bliss

Is forced

To flee

From the skin of a child

Into that of a work ox

And to curl up into a ball

Like a hedgehog that will stay

Until you appear

To release him

Spring

 


 

Cemetery of the Altai

 

The last larch

At the foot of the eagleís nest

Has fallen

Now this side valley of the Altai

Lies stark naked in the path

Of sand- and snowstorms

Perfectly resembling

A cemetery

Tree stumps

Jut out silently

Like shadows, gravestones

 


 

Burden

 

Tear has its taste

Mourning its look

Parting its language

Knowing

That the wound-etched

Blinded and

Mute are beside me

I donít know

What to do

Oppressed with weight

The invisible sack

With foreign burdens

The shoulders

 


 

A Line of Farewell

 

What use are words anymore?

The threads have long since

Pulled loose

It is not given

To you or me

To re-knit

The pattern from our

Aches and joys

Here apart, there together

Let the carpet, once woven

Stay as it is

Allow the bed linens of love

The honor

Of becoming a burial shroud

Of separation

 


 

That Early Autumn Day

 

That fluttering ribbon

Of an early autumn day

Striped pink at the one end

Spattered red at the other

Blue yellow white in the middle

And from hour to hour

In a richer light

Of sun storm behind

The bursting clouds

Constantly a new

Riveting bounty

 

You and I sat

Wedged into each other, silent

And so we left time

For our senses to be

Alert all the way to their edges

And to blaze wide awake

In the face of a portrait

Painting itself

And framing itself

Within the flaming horizons

 


 

Pilgrims

 

Two pilgrims, each

On a quest toward himself

The sensed unknown

Meet again and again

Halfway

 

Each serves as a skylight

To the goal for the other

The view leads

To meditation or embarrassment

Creating a dilemma:

A communal stretch

Or each continues his pilgrimage alone

 


 

Human Mountain

 

Short old woman

Tall wise man

Earth- and weather-beaten you walk

Dwarfish yet mountainous

With composure into the raging snowstorm

Of the winter steppe

Your face is a landscape

Carved with dark furrows

And charted by adventures

That still glow

Your fingers are roots

Washed and peeled

And in your look

Lives wisdom, gentle and clear

At the spot where you arrived

The winds of fate have

Quieted

 


 

Habit

 

Habit advances quietly

Softly seizes and firmly pulls the opening shut

Too late you notice

It has taken command

Useless to try rebelling

Against it, for

Youíve long since been walled

Into a hollow with no exit

Or else you stand walled

Out in front of your birth house

With no entrance now

 


 

Lullaby to Those Developing

 

Grow, sprout, grow

To a tall larch

But know

The storm always strikes

The tallest tree in the woods

 

Grow, stone, grow

To a hill, to a mountain

But know

Up there on the peak

Dwell cold and loneliness

 

Grow, child, grow

To a strong man

But know

Such strength is constantly

Attended by jealousy and hate

 


 

Beyond the Silence

 

Beyond the silence

That we monitor

A voice will speak

Beyond the darkness

That encircles us

A light will shimmer

Beyond the rot

That decomposes us

A body will generate

Beyond the emptiness

That fills us

A soul will hover

Beyond the numbness

That subdues us

A spirit will gleam

 

Someone named this existence

Defying every ending

And beyond all nothings

God

Another did not dare

To encumber

The majestic unknown

With a self-proclaimed

Inexact designation

 


 

Barbs

 

Be kind to yourself

Protect yourself at least

From your own barbs

Arenít there enough

People out there already

Who crave the chance

To hurt you?

 


 

Words

 

We talk too much

Keep silent too little

Plummeting hailstorm words

Bounce apart

In a search for grooves

And find a bed

Now and again

Through which

A stream will force its way

Rushing and frothing

But which needs

A silent lake

Into which it can flow

 


 

Mountains and Stars

 

Night makes a nest

In the cozy imprint

Of the dissipated day

Mountains and stars

Equally close and equally peaceful

Shine and breathe on you

With their blazing

Ineradicable memory

And you, pulsing particle

Of the burbling whole

Ride the arrow of time

From tomorrow to yesterday

You rest in the present day to personify

Animate and spiritualize it

Growing at the same time

Speck of dust by speck of dust yourself

To a mountain, to a star

 

 


 

Morning Greeting in All Directions

 

Greetings, man

Who lives next door or beyond the mountains

And steppes and rivers and lakes

No matter where you are, who you are

 

Whatever hair or skin color you have

Whether you know me or not

Greetings

 

A new morning is gathering

Possibly, things where you are

Are not so far along, and youíre resting

Surrounded by darkness, but

The light messenger of lifeís day

Left to visit you long ago and

So he will still come to the place you are

A further gift

 

But we, too, are gifts to the arriving messenger

Or to whoever fathered him, shaped him

And sent him on his way:

Each a burning torch

A costume of life, patience, gratitude

Along the way

Which, without us, without everyone and everything

Would be so senseless and hopeless

 

The breaking day can be anything

A bitch pregnant to bursting

For instance.Then she will

Deliver pups before our eyes

Maybe a litter of twelve. Itís up

To you and me whether we know

How to receive each of them

And above all how to raise them: as dogs?

As mutts?As monsters?

 

Mine will become sheep-dogs

With the tent of heaven as their roof

Barking communal complaints and sniffing the wind

Winds themselves, storm winds

In the way of all wolves

Mostly peaceable, but not tame

 

You will raise your own

As your senses dictate: as lap- or

Yard dogs.Or as attack dogs.The kind

With lips pulled back, teeth bared

And icy-murderous looks, I cringe!

They arenít kept to protect against wolves

I know. But still I beg you

Not to sic any of them on me

Or on any other child of man

 

I beg you in the name of the mother of all mothers

Who was perhaps a bitch as well

And her pups, your ancestors and mine

Delivered here and there. Or a blade of grass

Whose seeds the wind scattered across the earth

I am always afraid of the attack dog

No matter where he is. But Iím never afraid

Of you, man, wherever you live, whoever you are

And whatever hair and skin color you have

 


 

The Black Lake

 

At last I land again

On your stony shore

You receive me

As in the pale first hour

Of my little existence

Still so motherly

Mother mother

You keep that soft lap

Open for me, the lap that

Rocked me, oh, so caringly

 

I, a little leaf on

The whirlwind of life

Blow away once again

You follow me so childlike

Child child, you flood

Into my burning breast, and

Having extinguished the blaze

You retreat

Into the alcove, set free

By a temporary tear

 


 

Cradle of Wisdom

 

At first glance

The variegated blue mountain steppe

May appear

Naked, scant and cold

 

It is however

The aromatic, steaming cradle

With enumerated sands and grasses

In which life throbs and bobs

In competition with death

Which is not allowed to rest

It is the great book

That circumscribes history

With its many legends

That sleep

And wisdom

That keeps watch

 


 

Pilgrim

 

Day in day out

Year in year out

Busily

Crawling along

And rolling about

I, man, am

On pilgrimage

Towards myself

Not any nobler

Than a sheep

Nor any lesser

Than a god

I incessantly peel

Myself off inwardly

Stepping across thresholds

Leveling off horizons

And always moving closer

To the numbly raging ocean

Of gentle, glowing darkness

 


 

Drink

 

The cup from which

You drink me

Is the same in which

You served yourself to me

We pour ourselves

Into each other mouthwise

Two streams determined

To produce a river

Capable of flowing the distance and

Capable, before slipping back

Exhausted into the womb

Of bearing the water of life

The sacred three drops:

The first as dew

In the calyx

Of a waking rose

The next as a tear

On the lid

Of an eye dimming with death

And the last as a bonus

To the oceans of earth

 


 

Instructions about the Path

 

For Mielchen

 

The Black Mountains

Have a kindly disposition

 

If you wander them

With memory sharpened

And always keep alert

They will tell you

Of the boy

Who twice within three winters

Stepped across

The threshold of the yurt

Beyond the Blue Saddle

 

Split at first from the outside, and

Since that didnít work

He was allowed to leave again

Later split on the inside, and

With renewed distress

 

He had to hide

Locked away in a scrap of fur

Only then was he able to grow and prosper

And I came to be*

 

The cracked, scorched rocks

Will tell you

About cold and heat

While the shaky paths

Relate campaigns of the hero

Of a self-woven epic

And the stones and grasses

Will sing to you

Slimy songs

Of a shaman and shall

Recite spindly verses of a poet

 

*Translatorís note:To understand the autobiographical allusions about the split nature of twin brothers that died, and of the one who received both their spirits, only to be hidden in a fur skin, see the second paragraph of the introduction to the poetry of Galsan Tschinag.

 


 

Crate Renters

 

Swept clean our memories

No yesterday, no today

We dwell by hours

Toward tomorrow

In compartments

Of a crate

Renters

Obligated

By signed contract

To pay the going price --

When our stomach is full

When our senses are numbed --

With currency of a booming heartbeat

 


 

But the Steppe has Grasses

 

For Benjamin

 

Of course it is bare here

And you have to ride

Two days or three

To the closest woods

But the steppe has grasses

Wishing to be seen

To be noticed and acknowledged

And they are older yet

Than the trees

They have no ambition

Of being considered

Small trees

Grasses are

A long-living lot

Maybe they did once

Have a tree childhood after all

But now theyíve matured

To wisdom.They know

No grass has to grow

To a tree, just as no tree

Stunts to grass

Grass is grass

Tree is tree

Each grows

Unto itself and

Doesnít run wild

It grows inwardly and outwardly

 

Grasses are watching and listening

So come on, donít talk nonsense

Stay where you are and

Help yourself.Wisdom is

Everywhere, saturated

With beauty

 


 

At Sunset

 

On the breast hills lies

The hazy red reflection

Of the setting sun

Neither day nor evening

The silken border

Straight through the river of time

The bridge on which

I move from the shore of duty

To the shore of justice

And become aware

Of an ovoo,* round as a nipple

At the tops of many hills

And almost incendiary with blushing

The muscles stretched

The tendons taut

I live, full to the brim with you

 

*A pile of rocks, usually on mountain passes, used as a place of offering to the local spirit.

 


 

Wintry Closeness

 

Cracks and wrinkles in the earth

Sealed with snow

And fluttering blue-toned light

Flashing to the sky

Conjure up winterís closeness

Except for the water

That divides and dilutes

Everything gathers close

The herds

Planet earth

And our marriage

We can warm ourselves each day and

Each night with each other

Feeling skin to skin that each

Answers the other

With his own language

And two tired, self-directed soliloquies

Finally flow

Into dialogue

 


 

At Times of Defeat

 

At times of defeat

You pour yourself out

Mankind, into a

Bottomless container

Only too ready

To soak up

Any old concoction

Likewise when itís time

To pour out

Your liquefied soul

You meet everyone

Pinched and pouting

Without exception

Head bowed, you carry

Around your weakness

In the downdraft

Of cracking whips, but

Always knowing

No gratitude awaits you

 


 

The Nameless Eighth of an Hour

 

The nameless eighth of an hour

Between day and dew

A milky-white, shaky light

Shrouds the mountain steppe

Hurt and aching along and through

My heart cage, I think

Of the night departing

The words that can

No longer be captured

And the missed intimacy

No sooner have I thought it, I see

The light fading and

Souring, stiffening

Into a lumpy mess of pottage

 


 

In Smoke the Fire Lives, Dying

 

In smoke the fire lives, dying

I know who you once were

Slouching gray man

So many summer evenings

You dashed through the steppe

No doubt believing you could

Catch the day

And move aside the mountain

That was blocking the sun

Night was short for you then

And the day was long

At the same time you put

The inadequate name of youth

In many toothless mouths

But at least you helped

To hold the spinning, round earth

Steady on its axis


 

On My Way to See You

 

On my way to see you

I felt doors

Opening inside me

Behind which

One landscape

After the other

Arched toward the sky

And shone

Alert, proud eyes

 

On my way to see you

I was infinite

Encompassing worlds

Whose destructive force

I trapped and converted

Tamed into mildness

By the power

That chased me to you

Across lands and cities

In this hour of winter night

 

10/28/1995, Kreuztal, in the Guderhaus

 


 

Small Souvenir

 

The bluing day

Above the tree tips

Is the avenue stretching

Across from you to me

The paling stars

They give us

One final reprieve

The express train will

Arrive on time

And you will

Run to me

Even before I

Reach

The end of the track

Everything will go quickly

But you

Will not recognize

Right away

What Iím bringing you:

Farewell

 

10/23/1996, Dresden-BŁhlau

 


 

You Are In Me

 

You are as you are

In me

You sit inescapably

In the maw

Of memory

You turn, a spindle

Spooling nothing but new yarn

For an endless embroidery

In and out

You grow wild in me

Encasing me in your web

In a race with grass

That pierces

The ground from above

And knots up within

 


 

Inescapably

 

Well protected

My roots reach

To where

The threads of sun

And wind

Tighten

Into a pair

Of vibrating, sonorous strings

 

Inescapably I am intertwined

With everyone and everything

Watching and living

Tall as a tree above ground

Or resting and brooding

Long as a fallen log in the ground

And thus weaving

The existence of galaxies along

 

Embraced

By my first, most basic self

I am

Underway

From branch to trunk

From rock to mountain

And will at a bend

In the road once again

Peel myself back down

To stone, to leaf

 


 

Come and Burn

 

Why are you dozing

Unlit, little candle

In the fog hour

Of a dying age?

 

The evening can

Turn out no better than the day

Night comes last

Who knows

 

Iíve been here longer than you

And Iíve seen

Many autumns gray away

Until in the end I

Grayed away myself

 

Enter me

Letís stoke each other

For flame in the ashes of time

Maybe weíll succeed

In warming each other

On our little fires

As for me, Iíd like to burn out

Before the great fire breaks out

 

11/12/1995 EC 64, Vienna Ė Salzburg

1/15/1998 DŁnnershaus

 


 

Your Closeness

 

Your closeness has

Punctured

Holes in me

Now I stand

Here flooded in light

You are

The new name

For the dream

Iíve so often

Tried to weave

Always have to start over

 


 

I

 

If I sit on the mountain

I am stone

I rest

 

If I am in the steppe

I am grass

I grow

 

If I stand at the river

I am water

I flow

 

If I lie in the woods

I am tree

I rustle

 


 

Homecoming

 

The longing

That I cannot prove

Is my excuse

Iíve carried it as carefully

As a brimming bowl

 

But where is the hand

That can take it from me?

Whereís the mouth to drink from it?

 

And whereís the healing patch of Mother Earth

Where I can set

My burning soles again?

 

Strangers pass by

The whipping and jolting

Storm of time

Has totally emptied them

 

I stand to one side and

Watch them without longing or empathy

Weíve grown apart

 

 

 

 


Richard Hacken, European Studies Bibliographer,
Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA.
Comments, corrections and suggestions are welcome: hacken @ byu.edu