HIDDEN FACE FLOWER (Collected Poems) - Mai Văn Phấn. Translated from Vietnamese by Pornpen Hantrakool. Edited by Susan Blanshard

Mai Văn Phấn

Translated from Vietnamese by Pornpen Hantrakool

Edited by Susan Blanshard

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

HIDDEN FACE FLOWER
Thai version: “บุษบาซ่อนหน้า"
Vietnamese version: "hoa giấu mặt”

 

 

 


ศาสตาจารย์ กวีนักแปล พรเพ็ญ ฮั่นตระกูล

Professor - Poet Pornpen Hantrakool





Poet Susan Blanshard


  

 

A Glance

A small pond beside a foothill
Reflects
A hill’s peak

 

 

 

A Sleeping Spider

 

Dreaming to be human
A spider hangs from its web
And sleeps

 

 

 

To Separate

An evening’s twilight surrounds a yard
A flock of birds gathering outside
Beat their wings

 

 

 

To Strike a Gong

A gong stick
Wrapped in an old shirt
A vibrating sound of human sweat

 

 

 

A Bow Speaks

A bow drawn, wards off evil demons outside the door
The last night of a final year
A rustling of dried leaves on the door sill

 

 



Erecting a New Year Pole

Spring soaked in the soil
Digging the soil down
Found the old year there

 

 

 

To Restart

A harvested field
A stork swoops down
An unkempt dawn

 

 

 

A Flower

Tomorrow morning, a flower will bloom
The moon tonight
Already spread its sweet fragrance


 

 

 

Pomelo Flower

A fragrance spreads in a garden
A singing voice of treepie
Comes from each raceme of flower

 

 

 

Fruitful Autumn

Peeling a persimmon
Just ripened
Afraid someone will ring the bell



 

Cold Weather

Covered with a blanket
I forget the leaf
Trembling outside the window

 

 

 

Time to Chant a Prayer

The song of a bird
Fragrant incense
Thoughts are a prayer for the buds of new leaves


 

 

 

A Mountain Summit

The wind
Wherever it blows from
Carries sweet essence of the lotus flower

 

 

 

End of a Day

A maiden waded through a stream
The sun faded and shone
Then just set

 

 

 

Through the Teeth of a Rake

A rice field, cleared of grasses
A buffalo sleeps
Rice seedlings, not yet transplanted

 

 

 

 

In Mid Winter

A mask hangs on the wall
Cold wind blowing hard
Bores through an eye

 

 

 

At Dawn

A water spider
Awakes
In the middle of a lotus flower

 



To Be Aware

Moonlight on a tree
Scattered away
What else remains to be gathered

 

 

 

Sweet Fruit

Extruded roots
Point at the sky
A little stem

 

 

 

Moon Night

Hands placed on a pillow
Breathing quietly and listening to a colony of bats
Flying through a cage of moon beams

 

 

 

A Lake Surface

The sound of a bird dropping onto the water’s surface
A fish jumps
Snatching at mosquito

 

 

 

The Moon Rises

A narrow house
A lot of talking
A mantis, leaping to the top of a tree


 

 

 

A New Day

The dawn’s light breaking
An open beak of a young bird
Sipping bright clouds

 

 

 

Ripe Fruit

Who bakes
In the trunk of a tree
By another flame

 

 

 

A Ringing Bell

A waterfall drops, a gibbon howls, an insect…
The echo goes on
Only in my memory

 

 

 

Two Seasons

I stand between
A cicada’s chirp and
A chrysanthemum


 

 

 

Return to the Village

A sound of sedge mat weaving
The moon over a river
Slow and sleepy

 

 

 

Night Storm

A wind tears at the roofs of houses
The moon
Reclines on top of the storm

 

 

 

Making a Nest

A flock of sparrows nest on the roof
I walk without a sound
Below the landlord’s descendants

 

 

 

At Dusk

Sunlight
Reluctant to leave, waits until
A chrysanthemum closes its fan of white petals

 

 

 

Searching for a Flower

Following a fragrance
Around mountains
Some stony slopes are found

 

 

 

I

I withdraw to my chair
Drawing a sky
No place for clouds

 

 

 

Powerless

A rain squall, striking heavily,
Pound not on
A flower

 

 

 

A Meadow Flower

 

There is no one who dares to gather
This moment
A bleeding flower


 

 


An Eagle

Flying higher
Gaining confidence
The Earth is now a drop of dew

 

 

 

Pure Light of Early Morning

A small cup of tea
Half a cup is drunk
Sunlight shines on sodden leaves

 

 

 

A Silence

A mouth full of water
Dreads to speak
A bee is passing over a flower

 

 

 

Previous Life

I was a patch of grass along a walkway
You walked in a pair of red shoes
To tread on me, didn’t you?

 

 

 

The Encounter

You fly, I fly too
A blanket of clouds
Cuddle both of us

 

 

 

January

In a red skirt
You stroll around a flame tree
Not yet budded

 

 

 

Mixing Colors

Your scarf
A Christmas flower
Flowing… white… permeating… yellow… radiating… red… stunning

 

 

 

Missing You

A full glass of water
I drink
A brimful of light


 

 

 

Advice for You

That chrysanthemum has almost faded
Remember to take its color
To knit a yellow sweater

 

 

 

A Moment

Seeing a blue sky
Carving the empty silhouette
Of you, my love

 

 

 

An Image of a Spotted Deer

You breathe in a bush
A blossom bud
A pair of horns sprouts up

 

 

 

A Tale of Fireflies

We are side by side
The bole of a tree lights up
Our galaxy

 

 

 

A Heavenly Tree

Roots
We seek each other
Hardworking, pulling earth on our own

 

 

 

A Gentle Breath

The moon on a river
A warm cup of tea
A fan held gently in your hand


 

 

 

 

As Wood Speaks

The moon drops down
Slowly, slowly
A sound of weevils eating wood

 

 

 

A Split Second(*)

Having not yet recited the Buddhist scripture
A flowerpecker
Flits swiftly to another sprig


________

(*) A split second or khana is the shortest unit of time in the

Buddhist concept.

 

 

 

Callous

Who lost the straws
From that simple grave
All his life and death in tatters

 

 

 

Ancestors Death Anniversary Day

Hesitating

A fish swims through
The offering of food disintegrating

 

 

 

Appreciation

As the moon lights up
The shadow of a tree bows down
Beside a Buddha statue

 

 

 

Going Up to Đồng(*) Temple

Rising wind
Raising each Buddhist monk
Up in line


_______
(*) Đồng Temple is a Buddhist temple built during the rule of the Lê dynasty, nearly 250 years ago. It was founded on the peak of the Yên Tử mountain in Quảng Ninh province. This cloud-kissed mountain is 1,068 m above sea level.



 

 

Burning Votive Paper

Father, you will not need these
Just in case you do, I will send you
A hat and a walking stick

 

 

 

Grave Visiting Festival

Grandmother longs to meet me
Some of the dead
Stop her

 

 

 

 

An Early Morning in Mother’s Native Village

Washing my face quietly
Herons and bitterns on the riverbank
Break the silence with boisterous noise

 

 

 

Merciful

The setting sun behind the pagoda
Flowing water, leaves and birds…
All of them speak Lord Buddha’s words

 

 

 

A Well

An offspring of the sea
A coiled umbilical cord
In the heart of the soil

 

 

 

An Essence of Buddhism

A heron
Fumbling into the sound of a wooden fish
Envisions

 

 

 

In a Bramble Bush

Thorn does not pound thorn
They cluster together
Till fragrance passes through

 

 

 

A Witness

Skulking in a witness stand
Seeing an ebb tide
The stand is in the sky

 

 

 

A Minotaur

My hair is long
Stooping down while reading a book
Grazing… step by step, soundlessly I trot
 

 

 

 

Day and Night

At the place where I sit to play chess
Win or lose
The fireflies are gathering



 

 

Thinking in the Rain

Unbelievable
The cloud that fascinated me before
Is soaking me now

 

 

 

A Secret

A place where a mouse was trapped
Throughout the night
No other crosses over

 

 

 

So It Is

A wind
Blows calmly
Between an animal and a trap

 

 

 

A Sorcerer

Knocking over the potion
The flap of spell
Soaked



 

To Go Fishing

Casting a fishing line
No decoy
Into the moon’s shadow

 

 

 

A Bird’s Cry

A rasping sound of a bird signals danger
A small candle
Illuminating the murkiness

 

 

 

Air

A lotus petal
Falls down gently
Into a muddy pond

 

 

 

Many People Behold

A bulldozer
Outdoors
Covers a sprout

 

 

 

Enter Into Dusk

Trampling the embers of fire
Extinguished
Feeling blue and joy confusion

 

 

 

 

A Joke

A school of little fish
Swimming around a big fishhook
Caught milling about

 

 


Fish

The beating sound of tocsin
Water has just boiled
A tinkling pot’s lid is crying

 

 

 

The Ebb

Both riverbanks dry up
Fishes bellies dissected
Dried out and hoar frosted

 

 

 

Let’s Keep Silent

An oil lamp has burnt out
Some mayflies
Are offering their lives for us

 

 

 

Ripe Rice

An intrusive sound of a bittern
Harsh beyond possibility
As for the scarecrow, it is deaf

 

 

 

Wavering

A fish
In the midst of a sea current
Turns slimy

 

 

 

Yin Yang

A leaking house
A picture on the wall
In a cold sweat

 

 

 

Searching for a Way

Where a bell is rung again
I have found
A worm creeping on the ground

 

 

 

Excessive

Tying a chicken
Just one string is needed
Two or three for what…

 

 

 

Life is Full of Danger

Heron
Young and vulnerable
Where is your mother?

 

 

 

Reality

Garbage in ribbon strands
Floats faster than
The water’s current

 

 

 

Invisible Fishhook

Picking up a leaf
Putting it in my mouth
Who is catching me

 

 

 

In the Wood

A wounded wild animal should be told
If it cries out
It will be killed

 

 

 

Freedom

An old rat
Going around a trap
Until the springs collapse

 

 

 

Unsteadiness

A dewdrop holds its breath
Hanging over
A dirty puddle of water

 

 

 

Flowers at the Temple Entrance

More fragrant than other places
The Gods
Are right beside the scent of flowers

 

 

 

 

A Dream of Scales

A fish wriggles violently
The sound of water breaking from a pond
Freedom swims


 

 

 

Paradise Fish

 

Swimming, belly up
Still gasping
Swept away by a river

 

 

 

 

A Symbolic Picture

 

A fish nailed up
Tail and head
The endless sea

 

 

 

 

Cold, Tomorrow Will Be

 

A shoal of young fish
Vying for the surface
The bait of ornamental fishes

 

 

 

 

In the Midst of a Market

 

Each one in each place
A free cat and a free dog
Alone in the breath of humans

 

 

 

 

Rowing on the River Nhật Lệ(*)

 

A paddle moves me
Rowing back
On the sunny river

 

________
(*) Nhật Lệ is a river situated in Đồng Hới city, Quảng Bình province. It flows northeast before reaching the South China Sea. At the mouth of this 152 km long river, there are several beautiful white sandy beaches. In the past, it was the site of several wars between the kingdoms of Đại Việt and Champa, and the civil wars between the Trịnh-Nguyễn Lords.



 

 

Phong Nha Cave(*)

 

A stalagmite arm
Reaches out
Weighing heavily on my shoulders

 

________
(*) Phong Nha Cave is found in Phong Nha - Kẻ Bàng National Park, Quảng Bình province, near the coast. This famous natural cave is situated 7,729 m under a Kẻ Bàng limestone mountain, at a depth of 7,729 m. Inside; there are 14 grottoes; 44.5 km of passages and a 13,969 m underground river that flows through the cave. The natural beauty is evident in majestic stalactites that hang from cathedral like ceilings, In 2003, the cave was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for its geological value.



 

 

The Stony Plain of Nhay(*)

 

Waves crash over the boulders
A piece of white sand
Sinks to the depths

 

________
(*)  The Stony Plain of Nhảy, is located in the district of Bố Trạch, Quảng Bình province, near Đồng Hới city. The plain features numerous pristine shaped stones that have been eroded by the sea. The beautiful beaches around this area are white and pristine. The unique feature of this area is the relationship between the waves and rocks. When a wave pounds the rocks, it looks like a large frog jumping over the rocks, creating a series of rattling sounds.



 

 

Passing Through the Gate of Heaven at Đèo Ngang(*)

 

Entering heaven
Softer grasses
Your fingers taper off

 

________
(*) Đèo Ngang is the pass traversing the Hoành Sơn Mountain in Hà Tĩnh Province and the Trường Sơn, mountain range which runs from Laos to Vietnam. The mountain pass is 250 m, high and 6 km long and is situated in Quảng Bình Province. During the French occupation, the pass was named Porte d’Annam, the Gate of Annam.

 

 

 

 

Return to the Age of Bàu Tró(*)

 

A thousand reincarnations
Again, I take a stone axe
To cut what I cannot break

 

________
(*) Bàu Tró is the name of the archaeological site of prehistoric inhabitants during the Late Neolithic Age, around 5,000 years ago. The site is situated in the city of Đồng Hới, Quảng Bình Province. Here, a freshwater lake is named after the site. This lake is thought to have been an important freshwater source for the community, at that time.



 

 

Angle of Vision

1.

A garden’s corner

Falling water, pouring on a boulder

Evening twilight, leaving quickly

 

2.
Heavy midnight rain
One more blanket in a private room
Trapped water flowing down someone’s back

3.
A yellow flower stretches out to the water’s surface
No wind dares to come near
A tree throws its leaves into a pit

4.
On a thorn
The sun shoots
A dewdrop

5.
Braiding a cage
Of sky
Keeping a bird

6.
Abundant trees
Rely on their dreams
To flower


7.
A narrow house
A wind blows out, as
A wind blows in

8.
A cloud is entangled in the sun
Taking up
The twilight of sunset

9.
A butterfly perches on
A raindrop
Working out by fluttering its wings

10.
A herd of goat
Grazing all the grasses
Spring just shows up

11.
Rain pours down
On the flamboyant
To end the fire

12.
Only one step moves forward
Summer now
Autumn will conclude

13.
A golden apple is still green
A hand is still wet
Autumn has gone away

14.
On a muggy day
A knife, held in one’s hand
Suddenly turns blunt

15.
Two gemmae
Generating the spring wind
Stooped down on grasses last night

16.
Wave after wave
Washing the legs of
A little crab

17.
The first morning of spring
Being permissive
Not predictable

18.
Ray after ray of moonlight
Plaited together
A peony steps on the light passing through

 

19.
Reaping grasses, tilling soils, watering trees...
How would you know
A wedding of two white butterflies is taking place

20.
The spring season is wondrous
The caterpillars
Lie motionless

21.
A trap
A beast
In between is a haze

22.
A swaying tree
Thinks that a nightingale
Has made it drunk

23.
A bowl of cold lotus tea
The surface of a swamp
A sublime soul

24.
In an absent moment
Two flowers
Inject aroma into each other

25.
Turbid water
Fish plunges into fish
Spring rain

26.
Velvet and white
A half remaining petal
No smell of pests

27.
The sound of a thunderbolt
Shakes a lily
Slightly

28.
A narrow bed
A dream of flooding
Flowing through the mouth of a culvert

29.
A fallen leaf
Hiding in the stump of a stunted tree
Much more sorrow

30.
Withered grasses
Barren lands
The world nearby

31.
A thunder flash
A fish in the mouth of a raptorial bird
A hope

32.
A flower
Has dropped down under the sun
A complete ceremony

33.
A butterfly
Waiting for a lotus blooming
Pursuing, not flying away

34.
A swarm of ants, search for each other
Tears in their eyes
In a time of flood

35.
Peach blossom
Engraved on an earthenware kettle
Long winter on a brazier

36.
A tailorbird
Looked at my face
Then soared away

37.
If only a bell rang
The flower of late autumn
Would bloom

38.
Rowing a boat
A bird’s chirping
In the middle of the river

39.
Rain soaks both
The young banana sprout and
The caterpillar

40.
A slight wind
A bird on a roof
Shivering

41.
Requiem for a dead soul
A faint bell ringing

Sounds like the color of young grass

42.
Looking at a lake’s surface
A sound of fish wriggling
A lock is opened

43.
The moon
Its light brightening
The withered grasses

44.
The sound of birds in spring
Crossing over a mountain
Shaking a tree

45.
Winter
A bird with numb legs
Soaring at dawn

46.
In a deep forest
A frog
Gapes at me

47.
A mallow in the picture
A full jug of clean water
Here I am

48.
A dark cloud covering the head
A cave entrance in the dark
Half fearful, half feeling cool

49.
Angle of vision
An overturned orange husk
The water in a river, running dry

50.
Seeing a lotus leaf withered
Planting out paddy fields
Feeding birds

51.
The bowl of water, placed
Near a wooden goat
A drought

52.
Hiding beneath a white flower of temple tree
Rain
Washing the earth

53.
A bird in a picture
Hanging in a dark corner
Makes the beak longer

54.
Kissing you
The trumpeting sound doubles
Go slowly

55.
Holding your hand
I have already absorbed you
Your hair and all

56.
Looking for a long time
Into a lantern
A hexagonal loneliness appears

57.
A spring morning
A shadow of an old tree
A dwarf

58.
Counting every sound of a ship’s horn
Marking every page of a notebook
Waiting to read them on stormy days

59.
A brocade pattern
Some threads embroidered thickly
A king with his concubines

60.
A kingfisher
Passes close to the soul of a fish
Caught in a net

61.
A worm
Eating a ripe fruit
A man in the night

62.
A horse stamps and loosens its hoof
A man feigning insanity, blocks the orderly road
A dog eats the rotten hoof.

63.
Sleeping
Getting lost in a foreign land
Not knowing what to take

64.
Playing with a scrap of wood
Throughout the afternoon
An old cat never tires

65.
In a meeting
A bluebottle
Suddenly, raising its voice

66.
While taking a bath
News is heard
The world has changed

67.
New Year’s Eve
The Earth
An illuminating candle

68.
A day of working
Constructing an emperor’s mausoleum
Knowing which angle is which

69.
A cloud
Covering the moon
Closing an eye

70.
A sword
Cooled
Becoming tempered by water

71.
An abyss tells a grove of trees
To hold fast to a cliff
To bloom undefiled flowers

72.
A grey cloud
A black sea
A fish strives toward the water’s surface

73.
Burying my feet in damp soil
I have undergone a change of life
Close to a tree

74.
A leaf shakes
A door is open
A hammer held in one’s hand

75.
A cockroach
Dares not creep through
A rusty sword

 

76.
Not knowing how to save a friend from illness
A dewdrop at the end of autumn
Is transparent

77.
Looking up
To greet the spring rain
Getting a drop sometimes

78.
A bowl of rice, an egg
The dead man did not eat
Ceded to worms and crickets

79.
Grass on the tomb of father
Seems planted
In another time

80.
A maiden, reciting a Buddhist scripture
A centipede
Slinking away

81.
The sun
Moving through a mist
Cooling down while a coffin is placed in a grave

82.
A man just resting in peace
Facing a stream
Under the hollow of the earth

83.
From a graveyard at night
A flashlight illuminates a village road
Opposite the burial ground

84.
An evening’s twilight, moving over a garden
Asks for leaves of a jujube tree
To bath a tiny baby

85.
A spotted dove
Hovers over my ancestors’ tombs
In the season of field burning

86.
The same key
Today
Unable to unlock

87.
A wall turns bright
A paintbrush
Soaked in a bucket of oil

88.
An evening
A rat and I
Rush across a road

89.
A wind blows
Steadily
Into a cricket’s hole

90.
A night
Falling steadily
A dead flower, no more scent

91.
Joining a water’s surface
Eavesdropping
A fish’s story

92.
Holding your hand
A twig filled with flowers
Frail and pale

93.
A cloud waits for
A river
To carry it to the sea


94.
Under a jujube tree
Holding out one’s hand
Finding the way of blossoms

95.
Looking at the wagtail
Over my head
A rare moment is given to me

96.
On the Day of Vesak
In the corner of a pagoda yard
Ant eggs, in rows, are placed

97.
Of all the rainfall
Only a few drops
Drop straight down

98.
Forgetting to bring wings
Still, I
Can fly

99. 
A bumper crop
A colony of ants
Food transported to the hand of Lord Buddha

 

 

 

 

Biography of Pornpen Hantrakool

 

Pornpen Hantrakool was, born in 1947 in the old quarter of Bangkok, near Chao Phya River, Thailand. She, has been a Professor at Tenri University in Japan and an Associate Professor at Silpakorn University of Thailand. She taught history for many years. During her career, she has had works published, both in Thai and in English. She has been a guest lecturer and researcher in many universities, including Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, and India. She now writes and translates poetry. She has been invited to participate in international poetry and literary festivals in certain countries - Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, and Kenya. Having done some academic works on Vietnamese history, and literature. In 2012 she was granted an honorable certificate with a decoration from the Vietnamese Writer Association for her pioneering contribution to Vietnamese Studies in literature. Many of her poems have been published in magazines and anthologies. She has had two books published on poetry: “Springs and Autumns Speeding Through Time,” is her first bilingual book of poetry written in Thai and in English, and “hoa giấu mặt - Hidden Face Flower - ” composed by Mai Văn Pham, is her first bilingual book of poetry translated from Vietnamese into English and into Thai.

 

 

 

 

Biography of Susan Blanshard

 

Susan Blanshard was born in Hampshire, England. She is an internationally acclaimed Poet, Essayist, and Best-selling Author. Susan has written more than 35 books. She has edited translations for 7 international volumes of poetry. Selected poetry and essays are published in The World’s Literary Magazine, Projected Letters, Six Bricks Press, Arabesque Magazine, Lotus International Women’s Magazine, ICORN International Cities of Refuge. PEN International Women Writers’ Magazine. PEN International Writers Committee The Fourth Anthology, Our Voice, Nuestra Voz, Notre Voix. Her literary essays The Pillow Book, Four Recipes, The Traveler, Orientation, published in Arts And Culture, Lotus International Magazine, Hanoi. Her collected poems Running the Deserts, Midnight Mojave were included in the Vaani 9.69 seconds, a collection of short stories and poems dedicated to the London Olympics 2012. Selected new poetry from Poems from the Alley, have been translated into Bengali to be included in three upcoming literary reviews. She has also published book-length poetic prose: Sheetstone: Memoir for a Lover, Sleeping with the Artist, Fragments of the Human Heart, Memoir of Love and Art: Honey in My Blood. Susan is member of PEN Interntional Womens Writers and a Foundation Member of Asian Pacific Writers APW. She lived in Hanoi for eight years and has written two non-fiction travel books on The Old Quarter of Hanoi. She is married to a visual artist and writer. They have two adult children. Susan resides near Sydney, Australia where she is currently completing a three book work of fiction.

 

 

 

 


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