Four Poems

Galsan Tschinag  (Irgit Shynykbioglu Jurukuvá), born to nomadic herders in the upper Altai Mountains, became a shaman and poet in the Tuvan cultural tradition while living under an oppressive Communist regime. As chief of all Tuvans, he led a caravan across Mongolia in 1995 to return many of his scattered people to their ancestral lands.

Writing in the German language since the 1980s, Galsan Tschinag has been awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the two highest orders of the Republic of Tuva for his many books of poetry and prose, including The Blue Sky.


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
Smouldering, twitching and creaking
Full of unresolved duties
Untamed outbursts
Undigested actuality

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

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

A Yurt in the Grassy Steppe

Encircled by teeming, clamorous herds
A yurt stands
Silently and thoughtfully
In the grassy steppe
The immovable centre 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

Author photo credit Heike Huslage-Koch.

Richard Hacken has Moroccan DNA, four rectangular university degrees, a Transylvanian wife, a Swiss passport, and an energizing library career centered in an unrelinquished Paiute valley in Utah. Since meeting Galsan Tschinag and translating Tschinag’s animistic poetry into English, Hacken has resuscitated the planet more heroically than ever … in his mind.