Galsan Tschinag


Wind of the Steppe,

Wind of the World





Translated by Richard Hacken
From Galsan Tschinag, Steppenwind Weltenwind
(Frauenfeld, Switzerland: Waldgut Verlag, 2013)

Return to: The Poetry of Galsan Tschinag


Start to Live


Sometimes he approaches you

As close as a twig

Sometimes he moves away

As far as a twig


You belong to him, more surely

Than the skin about your body

Belongs to you

It's true
You live now
In this charring fraction
Of a blazing hour

Next, who knows when,

You'll lie flat and lifeless

A felled tree

Torn grass

So wake up now

From the nightmare of Later

Step out of the sugar-baked

Self-frosted fairy tale

Of Life unending

Set foot on the Land of Now

Start to live

And do it as furiously

As the meadow on the shore

Grows with an audible rush
As birchwood
Crackles while it burns

As the storm wind

Crashes and howls

As summer lightning


Clatters and crashes

Drowning mountain and valley

First in white and blue

And then in green



In the Treetops


In the treetops

Of petrifying larches

Where loneliness squats

And an icy wind

Sweeps over and under

I know the place

Kind enough to receive me

When no space is left

For me down here

In the sultry grove of life


Time Cattle


Grueling years of life

Line up behind me

Like winter-weary yaks

Along a cliff

Each pregnant

With at least a sigh

But the sigh won't calve

It only butts and rubs up
Against the hide of whatever

Currently bears me up

And so I simply assume

Those were years of apprenticeship

And therefore so grueling

And expensive

That my being an apprentice  

Cost me a paradise


If it hadn't been left fallow


To ravenous time cattle

For a permanent pasture



The Poet


He tweaks at thoughts

He thumps at words

And weaves and knits

His world from lint fluff

Compacted and cleansed  


It is for him the origin

And continuation

Of the world and of life

Packing words together

He penetrates the crust

Penetrates the flesh

Down to the marrow of matter

In his grasp, however,

Like a larch

Like a stag  

The matter dismantled

Does not die

Nor does it decompose

Like a tree felled

Like an animal shot

It is at that point

All the more robustly alive

It begins to live

And lives long

Attains immortality

Once or more

Connected to its creator  

By blood, by bones

The poet creates

His world and

All around it, a circle of light

The legend of his life

Becomes here and there

The legend of his land, and

Perhaps at times

The legend of the universe




Let Us Calmly Accept


Let us calmly accept

Our meager lot

Of living far

From the banquet table of this world

To chew the hard bread

With dignity in view

Of our sour sweat

To chew it all up

Along with the sproutling tree  

And the seedling stone


Chewing it soft

Into a mash

With triple reward

for our palates

With the honey of the grain

With the fire of the wood

And with the salt of the rock



To My Left Black Sea


To my left Black Sea bursts forth

To my right White Mountain totters

The steppe under my soles trembles and shakes

The sky above my head flutters and glows

I am the midpoint of earth

And a serial witness

To the aftershocks of the Big Bang, which,

If I rightly remember

Took place in my own presence

Since even back then

Seventeen billion years ago

I was there, a fractional particle  

Of the ultrafine point with the infinite mass

Frothing and foaming across

The Big Bang Breach


In the Quiet Purple Distance


In the quiet

Purple distance

I know the outcome  

Of the raucous years

The body of time

Blue-blooded and fossilized

Will lie next to my own

A dream long

Supported and warmed

By each other  

But also rubbed out

And used up

Two new arrivals

Finally at rest




Yesterday in a Dream


Yesterday in a dream

My mother visited me  

Today it was my father

I saw

They've learned

To join the days and nights

Together with the lambs and calves

The years that have escaped me  

Were still there for them


I no longer knew

If it was them as they were  

Then or as they are now



Yesterday Seems Rectangular



Seems rectangular to me

Placed in a coffin, deaf and dumb


Seems round like an egg to me

And I think I hear

Constant chirping

Between the coffin and the egg

The day today


Without form, restless and senseless

Smoldering, twitching and creaking

Full of unresolved duties  

Untamed outbursts

Undigested actuality



More Beautiful by Night


Cities are always more beautiful by night

Most beautiful a foreign city  

When it's wide awake

When lights shimmer

Next to other lights like braided pearls

When blazing tangles and conduits

Break forth from the darkness

And scuds of variegated fog

Converge into a dissipating cloud bank  

With a golden lining here

And silver there

Nothing suffocates misery as well

As some glittering froth

Against the black flat-wall of night




Asiatic Steppe Grass


I am a blade

Of Asiatic steppe grass with legs

A stone from the Altai mountain

Swaddled in skin

Only after ten months

Did I leave my mother's womb

Falling on naked soil

Like a whelp, like a meteor

I lay for months

Cloaked in a scrap of sheepskin

Until the first shirt

Was draped about my body

And I grew up with lambs and foals

With wind grass and thistle shrubs

And snow storms

For me, ripened thus into a human,

Much on earth has remained strange

But quite a lot has become familiar

So don't demand things from me

The way you know them, the way you do them,

And don't force me, please, into some role

That doesn't fit or sit well with me

Just let me be what I am

Exactly where I belong




The Heated Saucer-Stone of Happiness


I've been allowed to feel you, happiness,

Inside me like that kidney-shaped

Heated saucer stone

Placed in my breast pocket

To warm my freezing

Hands when they ached from the cold  

Sometimes I thought

You had to grow, get crusty and age


Just like me, like every living thing around

But today I not only felt you

But saw you

Laying there, round and soft and warm

In my hands

You were the face of a puppy

With a pair of eyes, in which rested

Innocence as clear as the sky

And which looked at me with infinite

Unshakable trust

Now I know

You haven't outgrown yourself  

You're still in your childhood

And so you make me

A child again, too,

With your breath and your touch


Light Brush Under My Stirrups


Light brush under my stirrups

Airy blue above my head

I ride through the morning

Along the forest rim  

And it seems to me

I'm a forest gnome  

Bearing dew-fresh greetings

From one tree clan

To another, and pleased to do so



The Clocks Stand Still


The clocks stand still

Clock hands rest

Turned inside out

Earth falls


Into its primal components

I decompose

Flow, water

Grow, grass

Dust, soil

Forgetting so much

I know one thing

I am

Am primordial again.


Surrounded by the Rustling


Surrounded by the rustling

Of distant forests

Encircled by the whispering

Of nearby leaves

Am I dreaming my life — or, horrors,

Whose dream am I living?

Floating between near and far

Half awake and half asleep, my mood is

Sunny bright and soft as silk

Maybe I, a mountain stream

Pushed from the summit

Tapped from the glacial spigot and

Tossed from rock to rock, have finally


At my estuary

Perhaps from here on

The terrain is flat

Without treacherous cliffs


And without any more treachery around

Life itself unending

No poison or death

Maybe everything up until now

Was just a misunderstanding?

And the world really is a paradise?






For one beat of an eyelash

Suspends gravity

Lifts us into weightlessness

And shoves timelessness at us

It is the time boundary, the silky

Fabric along the seam

That separates the departing

From the arriving day

But by separating

Knits the two together

Then a lost spark flickers

Behind our foreheads

Igniting a series of flames

On abandoned heights

Whose dazzling sheen

Penetrates into hidden corners and

Arouses restrained spirits

To perform a belated deed



In Search of Childhood Relics


In search of childhood relics

I wander the fields of home

Missing a number of paths

Erased by the wind

Washed out by water  

They've been wiped from the memory of earth

Others lie muffled and muted

Under the deadening, desiccating dust

All the more expressive to see the sight

Which I take in with my mouth muted

With my heart shrieking and cracking

And we let the seething stories

Tell themselves, which then, pacified,

Cross over, become invisible and inaudible  

Still others have torn out

Shadowy gashes in the corpse of earth

The traces that I left behind there

Are trampled and crushed  

By the hooves and wheels of history

Flooded away in the water

Floated away on the wind



The Ocean Has Disappeared


The ocean has disappeared

The gulls have remained

They arrive summer after summer and

Circle screeching above the steppe

The dried-out seabed of their final destination

The millions of years

Have not been enough

To wipe out

Their ancestral memory



Down in the Valley Fog


Down in the valley fog

Up in the sky

A lone white cloud  

Glowing and concentrated

Worthy of Herman Hesse

Hessian too is the day

Bright, still and planned

Down to every blink of the eye

To every blade of grass and snowflake

With a clear head and warm heart

I carry out duties

That are mine and chew

On some rights that I've

Harvested and distilled  

Into further higher duties

I enter my inner stable

Choosing a wolf for myself there

I awake him and pour myself

Into him and set out on a search

For the reciprocal baiting

Of God and Devil, which must

Be hidden somewhere

In an eye wrinkle of the universe

To test the bounds, respectively,

Of their Divine and Devilish resilience  

Now I am all wolfish

All nose and ear and that extra

Little something that distinguishes

The wolf from other living beings

And so I'm busy snatching up

The universe in my teeth

As it flies to me in crumbs

As it drips on me in drops and

Blows its breath my way

I fully feel the cosmic carcass, listen to it

Smell it, taste it, in order

Who knows, some even lighter day

To finally solve the grand mystery


Blazing Native Wind


Blazing native wind

Blazing red with embers

Blazing blue with ice

We stand before you charcoaled and frozen

As if we're all guilty

You sweep our mountains bare as stone

You blow our steppes dry as dust

You suck all life from them

With red, wound-scoured

Vacuum-emptied eyes

We stare at you

Unable to comprehend why

You do that to us




The Angel of Death


Once the angel of death visited me

Grabbed me by my ankles

But the timing was inconvenient

So with the stubborness of a musk ox

With the incisiveness of a drawn dagger and  

With the bright wit of an ascended shaman

I refused to join him

And stridenly announced in formal tones

That I would follow him as he wished

Except for this once — and I went free 

Now, I don't know if I'll keep my word

The next time — perhaps so

But probably not, for I feel inside me

An ocean of words, pressuring me

And wanting to get out to other people

In my nomadically approximate estimate

I'd need another hundred years

To free myself of my flowing and sloshing

Content and to grant some peace

To this bucket with its multiple leaks

And as for my promise  

Death is the only thing

We can postpone as long as possible.




Oh, This Autumn


Oh, this autumn has made me raw

And soft at the same time

Like well dubbined yak leather, which

The hunter straps at one end

Around his right boot

And whose other end

He takes in his fist and pulls tight

Whenever his dagger grows dull

A process which, with blade enough,

Can come and sharpen

Itself on me




I Hibernate


I hibernate, together

With the marmots and the bears

I bed down on the stony ground of the steppe

Wrapped in my cushion of dry

But cozy-warm grass that I collected

Up till the late days of autumn

Now I lay and listen

To the banging away of large and small weapons

Of wild poachers outside

Where the battles for prey continue

Yells of victory here, mourns of defeat there

Cuddled into the invisible corner of life

Perhaps I'm safe from the bullets

I'm not in anybody's way

No longer a thorn in the side

Of failed hunters failing to fell prey

After winter the spring will come and then

Together with the marmots and the bears

I will leave my cave and go out into the sunlight






I have just returned

Hale and hearty

To my hearth and wife

From the urban traffic civil war

I'm happily drinking my tea

Now and then calling to my dog

With a word or two in Mongolian

Still feeling in my throat

The aftertones of a song

In Tuvan

And in my ear a potential line

Of German poetry




Oh Happy Green Summer of Love


Oh happy green summer

Of love!

The udder of life

Hung down heavy and full

From two teats flowed out

A rich and generous stream  

Of honey-sweet milk

This drew

A voice from two throats

A creamy soft Yes

Now it's winter

Two humans tramp

Through the bare, chilled steppe

And try to remove the remains

Of a laborious oxen team

In each throat

A split voice

In each breast

A weary heart

Days of hunger under the

Shrunken udder of life




A Button


A button, buttoned

In the wrong size

And strangled

In the wrong buttonhole

I too

Am stuck on the collar  

Of my country

Both of us feel unwell




My Land


My land

A primal stone mass

At the roof-edge of planet earth

My people cling to it

As an ancient lichen  

Both have their colors

Their smell

This is the wind of the world's nesting place

The wind rises up

Now and then to fly in circles

Devastating and contaminating

The valleys, the plains  

But it also

Cleanses and heals them

Tearing space apart




Earlier I Dropped By


Earlier I dropped by

Your place

From the saddle of my spirit stallion

I cast down flying sparks of steppe sun

Upon your rain-soaked land

And scattered hoof-warm, illuminescent sand

Across its backyard permafrost

The day arrived with me time-neutral there

And the world of corners and lines

Still lay tucked to the inside

Warm from sleep, gentle from dreams

The weep-streaked eyes of the conical corner sky

In the midst of a heaving sea of clouds

Were empty, but I sensed behind them

Stars, newly burnt out, their traces faded

Heavy, brillliant pearls of tears, now blurry

And only traces




Indoors and Out


You are indoors and out

Alternately depending on the weather

Round about the trampled field

Where the battle for survival rages

The Cabin of Truth and

Likewise the Palace of Lies

And you will have to calmly accept

Your own final mortal shock

Someday just like today

In the opposable forceps of two forces

Of fire and of water  

It is obvious

But difficult to admit  

That your twenty-year-old life is

No more important that that

Of the two-hundred-year-old larch

You cut down last fall

And your death will

Be no more serious

Than that of the deer you are  

Tracking right now, a cudgel

In your often blood-stained hand  

The larch crashed as it fell

Till the sound reached the mountains, who

Bellowed in pain and could not

Be comforted for a long time

And the deer, as you already know,

He will hold his antlers

Up above the ground  

And the questioning look in his eyes

Will focus on your face  

Up until the last breath

Has left him

When you're dying

Will the mountains bellow?

And dying, will you

Still be in any condition

To hold your naked skull  

Above your collapsing body

And look the angel of death  

Straight in the eye?




Every Day and Every Year


Every day and every year

The world is created anew

Whoever has five senses intact

Recognizes this and knows

How to live reverently  

In the face of continuous


And whoever has kept  

That sixth sense awake

Supports the day and the year

Participates in their creating

Plucks this into place

Adds that where needed

The world is an ongoing

Communal project




Black is How the Shaman Sees the Forest


Black is how the shaman sees the forest

Water, too —and why?  

Black is his sky behind it all

The sky beyond and above all skies

The original sky, the ninety-ninth

And conversely the first one  

Through which he hauls everything

Before grazing it with his senses

Skinning off all skins except the prime skin

From the blackblack nothing

The beginning of all being.  





Two Infinities


I live squeezed between two infinities

As I myself am infinite —

Outwardly and inwardly

Each core contains

Within itself a further core

Behind the infinity of my

Breezy outer covering slumber

Further infinities

Squarely aimed at me

My attraction to one of the two

Is met with antagonism by the other and

A compulsion to return

I am a river

Flowing in two directions, and

A wind blowing two ways




I Open the First Page


I open the first page

Of a winter diary —

I step out into the new morning

And stand still

A few of my heartbeats are taken away

The night has once again done its preparatory work  

It snowed again

And I will be the one again

Allowed to approach

The young-boyish body of the day

And leave my mark on it  

So I move carefully

Placing one boot after the other

Into the frothy loose snow

Crunching it until it squeaks under my soles

And then pulling it up at its compacted edges

The first squiggles drawn

The first sentence written  

I go back into the house, confident

That today I will take my powerful part

In the life and progress of the planet





Fall Morning


In the amber morning hours

With their silvery blue lining

Life is like a river

That flows and doesn't flow

Since it dreams, and while dreaming

Is itself also the object of dreams  

Happiness is when you, there,

Wrapped in the time-dream

Remain by the shore

Smiling at the river and

For recompense

You scoop up dreams  

That you let

Drain down into you

Long enough for you to know

They are enough to last the cold winter

And past the barren early spring




A Yurt in the Grassy Steppe


Encircled by teeming, clamorous herds

A yurt stands  

Silently and thoughtfully

In the grassy steppe

The immovable center of life

I look at it  

With the gaze of a resting stone

And searching its contours

With the feelers

Of the waving grass

I notice

It shudders and thumps

The unwearied heart of the steppe

I don't have to know right off

Who it belongs to

I simply ride up and have permission

To settle in there and

Share with the residents everything

That happens to be there — this is the law

In the heart-rounded, heart-warming

And heart-gentle den of men







Two days ago I stood

Between forest and steppe

And sang once again  

The wind accompanied me

Producing notes

Unfamiliar to my vocal cords  

That fit no known music and

No instrument could reproduce

They were likely the voice of the past  

Left unvocalized for a long time

Humming and sobbing

Perhaps even one or two notes  

From ages yet to come

For the song exceeded my capabilities

And later, back on earth, at home

I thought:

Only from the round body of time could

Something like this have escaped  

And lifted me up on its wings

Thinking such thoughts

I tried to calm down, to comfort myself  

At not having to be ashamed of tears

That I still shed, now shed even more

Thus occurred one of the countless miracles  

That actually occur daily

But mostly go unnoticed by anyone

Heaven, too, began to weep —  

Precipitation fell from sunny clear skies

So the sound of the song had soared up

Had been acknowledged by citizens on high

And I was, oh, yes, rejoicing once again

At my singer-destiny





The Earth Mother


The earth mother has

A strong backbone

Which has withstood

Up till now

The pressure of countless ages

They have all pressed hard

For there has been no age

Lesser or nobler  

Than our own

All of them, to be powerful, chose violence

And behaved vilely.





Oohing and Cooing in the Evening Air


Oohing and cooing in the evening air

That coats the skin with a zone of trembling

And tingling

And makes the blood smolder

An army of ants

Far back and sleeping down low

Awakens and begins to go to work

And right away every pore becomes a gateway

Occupied by a rebel

My body

Calibrated to your latitudes and longitudes

Has been a fortress for one hundred days

But threatens to fall tonight




Becoming the Sky


Not just by getting underway

Will I become the sky

I already am, I am part-sky

It's in me, in drops, in crumbs

Since the water I drink

Has previously mirrored the sky  

Weighed it and washed it —

I have drunk the sky

The wheat I eat with my bread

Has sprouted up into the sky

Growing and ripening

A summer long

Having stood in the sky and

While swinging and swaying

Having stroked the sky —

I have eaten the sky

It's in me, even as grass

As water, as air are in me






If you like, you can

See with your hands, too, and

Hear with your feet

To do so, you have to

Open all portals of your body

Toss out the erroneous notion

That you can only see with your eyes  

And only hear with your ears

Step out onto the wide boulevard

Along which entire nations of

The deaf and blind are moving along

Getting by with their lives

No worse than you and I  




Let Me Brag a Bit


So why not —

Let me brag a bit!

From the wind I have my polish

From the grasses my melody

From the rocky monolith my hardness

From rain and melted snow my softness

From the sun above the high plains my fire

From watching the mountains form and fade

Millions and billions of year without my growing

Impatient, I have my patience

And the longer I enjoy these multiple blessings

I resemble my mentors more and more

The reason for my braggadocio

Also lies with others, who constantly announce

At the top of their voice

They have this or that, they are such and so

Just once I wanted to make known

All I can do and who I actually am




Storm and Fire


You were

A storm within the storm

A fire within the fire

Through the drizzle

Of a fine rain  

You flash-flood-forced

Your way as a thunderstorm

You were

The ploughshare

The sword's edge

You were

The good name of your country

From now on you will be

Its bad conscience




Who I Am


Am I G.T. —

Or Jurukuváa?

I'm probably both


Am I Mongolian?

Or am I Tuvan?

Again, I'm probably both


Am I a poet —

Or a shaman

Or even a chieftain?

I am the one

Just as the other and

Again the other-other

I'm all of it


Am I the question —

Or the answer?

I'm both

And what's more:

I am the answer to a number

Of questions not asked

And a number of questions

That will follow

The answer given





My Life's Candle


I admit, there were

Glowing days and years as well

In this life

Yet those were exceptions  

Lonely outliers

Otherwise I burned my life's candle

Always at full flame

And held it up high  

Like a torch

I spent myself

The way others spend money  

And shared myself the way others

Share candy or schnaps

My life has been my alms

My loans and my donations

That I handed to those  

Surrounding me, those needing

Light and warmth and stability





My Dreams and Longings


You, who have shared in

My dreams and longings

Are on more intimate terms with me  

Than all those

With whom I share

Land and language

Home and hearth

Or even night and bedtime




You As Sun, I As Grass


You as sun, I as grass

We were aglow

You as grass, I as wind

We made music

You as wind of the sun, I as grass of the steppe

We burned brightly and sang

Our beginning

A poem

Our end

A novel

Written there

Silent here



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