SEEDS OF NIGHT AND DAY (Collected Poems) - Mai Văn Phấn. Translated from Vietnamese by Nhat-Lang Le. Edited by Susan Blanshard

Mai Văn Phấn

Translated from Vietnamese by Nhat-Lang Le

Edited by Susan Blanshard

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

SEEDS OF NIGHT AND DAY

 

 

 

 


Translator - Poet Nhat-Lang Le

 

 

 

 


Poet Susan Blanshard

 

 

 

The Flower of Mount Yên Tử

 

 

It blooms on the mountain top

Serene in strong winds

Under the clouds of change

 

Seven hundred years ago

The Buddha King Trần Nhân Tông

Lowered his head when passing by

 

You and I

Lower our heads when passing by

The children

Also lower their heads

When passing by

 

As we descend the mountain

We meet the pilgrims

Holding small bamboo canes

All eyes turn upward

As we amass heat to burn the flower to its roots.

 

 

 

 

The Opening Ground

 

 

Gushing

between the screams of ephemeral belts of land

the riverbed writhes in waning light

dusk holds day tight in its mouth

fire convulses

fiercely ascending the tree tops

scorching the buds

 

A flight of birds spreads across the sky

so thoughts can reign on earth

where the wind’s face meets a bowed hill top

a deep cavern exhales myths to morning dew

ponds and puddles find a heavenly direction

the river gives birth while flowing


 

 

An open embrace of waves

playing in childish ebullience

the water surface turns to ruins

You set up an already broken sun

 

Drifting...

 

An unknown silence is drifting by

the lamp wick shortens

as kerosene soot says its last words

I vaguely hear the boiling batch of herb saying its apology

 

Erupting...

A flower opens vast expanses of land.

 

 

 

 

Lotus

 

 

The mute patches of mud withhold their sparkle

Strained eyes compact space

A figure

Stands on the lotus pedestal and delivers

 

Water weaves together

Waiting for the rise of any off-season lotus shoot

To target a flying cloud

mysterious as a text with fading characters.

 

The lake bed no longer holds fire

The wild grass has grown cold

Flickering rags of black butterflies

shoot out from explosions of tree root

 

Water weaves together memories

of yesterday’s scent

of yesterday’s silhouette

lucid in the falling leaves of human voices

 

The human voice grows indiscernible

 

It is not as fearsome, as fingers that clip a lotus

emaciated under a transparent robe.

 

 

 

 

The Soul Flew Away...

 

 

...

A spider’s hammock being torn by the lifting fog

Returns freedom to the soft tongues of grass

 

The drifting clouds rub out

A horizon that has just buried darkness

 

Blood resurrected within the ground

Turns into young sap welling up at each falling leaf

 

While long-suffering shadows remain silent

The thrush bursts out a firework of calls

 

Buds are shooting up dividing walls

As arteries of streams clear and circulate

 

Tongues made of glass break into voices

To discuss each discolored photo

 

The words in a notebook having dreamed of fire

Just before they become ashes, suddenly come to

 

When moving out, one has tossed the incense sticks’ leftovers into the river

So one wonders why fragrant smoke still lingers…

 

 

 

 

 

The Pace of Coming Autumn

 

 

Autumn releases a thousand boats

Rhythmic breathing as water splashes

An invisible hand rests on my shoulder

Both riversides tremble in anticipation

 

Rain breaks out from a summer's dream

Blades of grass turn upwards to receive each slow drop

As leaves rot, their souls rush to the tree top

A blue sky comes back, as fog lifts from one’s hollowed eyes

 

From here to the other side is so close

Yet it will take an entire restless autumn

Someone is immersed in ardent flowery colors

Causing the boat over there to drift its way back.

 

 

 

 

Variations on a Rainy Night

 

 

Rain comes at last

And thunder rumbles

Tender shoots strip naked in darkness

The land tries to hide its barren dryness

When roots feel their way into our chest

 

Together we desire

And together we recall

A leafy cone hat and raincoat or lightning across the sky

Night lies down with all the tombs

Its black shirt still hung in the trees

 

Together things cool down

And together things echo

The sounds get lost inside our deep sleep

Where countless upside-down dreams are shattered

In this cool, expanding, reverberating rain water.

 

 

 

 

Village

 

 

Water drives the pond’s shimmer high up

flooding the placentas, dispersing destinies of bindweed

the anxious way back

 

Roots that keep the ground

The path scattered with the scent of breasts

connecting faces with numerous skulls

one or two dangling from each arm

 

Again the path

footprints of the sickle

footprints of the scimitar

tears run on crumpled patches of wheat-grass

sharp pains for a life of needle and thread

to safeguard the dam from breakage

 

A call disrupts the space of a slaked lime pot

crumples the crane’s resin-stained wings

fills with air the basil shirts of drums and rattles

blows away banners

 

We dig up graves one by one

solemnly pick up each syllable of the word “ancestors”

O village!

our hands trembling as we rearrange the bones

before it dawns.

 

 

 

 

Written for the Flute

 

 

I blow into the dark-as-hell hollow of a flute to discover the seven ways to paradise: do re mi fa sol la ti.

Each scale flaps its wings and flies away, gliding into the mysterious glittering seven-color light. Those shadows bear the shape of the flute. Soon I will put my lips to each shadow and blow.

Leaving the bass section, they fly, and then release a myriad of pitches into the night. I hear laboring footsteps of night echoing, as it leans on the octaves to ascend.

A muted universe is hanging in the night. Tender waves let the shadows know to wake up in the morning and meet the light.

Each dark corner inside me is sucking on sounds, like sucking on a mother’s breast, and from my half-open mouth, light slowly streams in.

 

 

 

 

At the Root of the World

 

For Susan & Bruce Blanshard

 

 

I see at the top of the hill

A beardgrass flower just bloomed

Light emanates from there

 

Dawn emanates from there

And illuminates the foot of the hill, a forest exit

Birds depart in the early morning

I too have just left my memories

 

Not from anywhere else

But from that very beardgrass flower

An extremely beautiful day is forming

 

I walk to the nearest café

To wait for my woman

 

And for a long time I look towards the hill

True, very true

All of us were born there.

 

 

 

 

Drifting in Silence

 

 

In a mute cavity

I

am drifting in silence among others

 

I press my ear to the bright outline

to overhear them in vain

only trembling contorted gestures

based on their eyes and lips

I assay it’s either repentance

or proclamation

Memories slow in total deafness

a black wall rises up

the riverbanks fill with fog

their arteries snap

the wax figures

wipe black fire from their eyes

 

With an ancient soundproof wall

and today’s profound deafness

we see each other through them

the more we call out

the farther we are apart

 

Looking at each other

You and I

drifting in lightning speed

we pound on empty space before us.

 

 

 

 

A Door’s Screech 

 

 

It echoes in my dream as thunder

on my old bed

the vast land reappears

the smell of exhausted soil rises in opaque rain

mixing in with mat and blanket sweat

a bowing crane

sinks into the slack net of basin

among gentle slopes of freshly ploughed furrows

sediments fill my ears

shrimps and fish stir in my palms

people’s strides slash the soil and crumble the riverbanks

trying to regain my composure I flashback in delirium

before the thunder is the sound of pickaxes

and before that

trees taking root down in the gorge

thunder spreads with no echoes

connected to the depth of a narrow edge

a door’s screech sounds off

opening a pathway.

 

 

 

 

Rhythms Compose the Way

 

 

One’s memory stirs

Where shades have deeply buried shades

Rottenness thirsts for the calamity of fire

Stars sleepwalk

Falling into thin dew

 

Bitter leaves crawl over scalding coals

In their breath pine leaves shroud pine cones

Someone is putting away his traveling case

 

Shadows that hide in antique objects

Still tremble in fear when their names are called

Tears blur the epochs

 

In an irrational movement

The ground lies on its belly to support the levee

A stream of white smoke rises up

A fall pours down from layers of dying leaves

 

Deep tombs open in one’s chest

Revealing the arterial paths

Corrupted by many inverted rooftops

With stains on the lime-washed web-ridden walls

Inside which the dull tapping sounds

Urge a run towards the door.

 

 

 

 

Summer is Near

 

 

The paths are condescending

A statue wrapped tightly in the scent of aquilegia

Disappears without a trace

A drizzle inhales and exhales

 

Covering his mouth, she says:

- Don’t sing any more lyrics that have become carbon dioxide!

Turned off

He follows a plough that is floating in fog

 

Buffalo horns rise up from dark corners

Lift up the soil so grass can grow

Blow warm air into decay

Agonizing souls demand to reincarnate

A dog’s tail waves a small alley’s flag.

A house is dreaming to wear another house upon itself

Birds that hear a gun cocking among trees hide in a cloud roasting in the frying pan of sunset

Shipworms choked on smoke open their mouths to discuss the immortality of water and the transience of ships

A bear hugging a beehive drops from the treetop to where a trap has been set

  

Buffaloes bulge up within the ground

When the rope of time is stretched

It explodes on the hard surface

 

Fire rises high from the clouds

Souls are cremated for the last time

 

Someone is stretching out his arms

And speaks endlessly without making a sound.

 

 

 

 

From Raindrops

 

 

Through the air with so many perspectives

Raindrops fall sharp and pointed

The light blue sky has been blemished

In an instant the usual horizon is wiped to a blur

 

Hesitating to break, some raindrops fall inside me

Turn into pebbles running all over my body

The roar of blood in my mercury hand

Is flesh and bones or smoldering limestone

 

It bubbles. It crackles. It’s smashed

Heat rises up to the sky in a rage

Anxiety no longer has any meaning

Change has surpassed capacity

 

No time to reflect, no time to fathom

I am sunk by the rain, washed away with it

Suddenly I see myself in others’ cries

Their mouths the shape of fetuses, seeds, and stamens…

 

 

 

 

The Voice

 

 

When waking up

I believe I hear a voice

I don’t yet know from where it comes

Or goes

 

Perhaps the stream outside is about to flow in torrents

Flower stamens can now bind the bee’s feet

Lips desire to be legs to run over skin

A covetous tongue of fire lunges for the hay

 

Is this all it takes

To give birth to a voice

To contradict topics and definitions

I have heard or understood?

 

When I wander and get lost in an old place

The land there still eats silence with every meal

The silence that is torn by my teeth startles me

When I turn and run

There is no sound made by my feet.

 

 

 

 

A Day

 

 

I sneak between traps set in my dream, and arrive at the window the same moment as dawn. Daylight covers wedges of grass just woken. The playground opens on a bleak surface. Each morning arrives just once, so you can’t choose to play old games. I stretch my arms while waiting for sunlight to drop warm cables, so as to crawl across the abyss to reach the other side.

 

*

No safety net. There are only sharp spikes and dangerous stones below. As my thoughts and body exploring, the wind blows me with up-turned leaves. A large cloud gets lost. A persistent bird makes its nest on a shaking branch, and an imperturbable worm chews on a leaf which is falling into light beaming from the horizon.

 

*

The ocean is just behind a small alley’s mossy stone walls. Trees murmur, pebbles grind against each other. The sound of water pouring into each cup, repeats the sound of a big surging wave stranded. I’ve got to go... so the waves of leaves, pebbles and water foam surge up once more and collapse behind me.

 

 

 

 

Arrows of Darkness

 

 

From my imagination

And ambition

I draw out arrows

And go in search of the day’s target

 

Around me some immobile ones

Over here lotus shoots receding to the lake bottom

Over there naked children running into me

More than forty years ago

I aim at those as if in a dream

 

Arrows sketch their lightning flights

Through space and time

Through philosophies and world visions

I believe I have hit my targets

 

When I look down at my feet

I see darkness overlaying thicker at dusk

Suddenly I see so many holes -

Lanterns light up on the river.

 

 

 

 

Photos, Fruit and Dreams

 

 

Under-exposed photos, speed-ripened fruit and dreams that lose their wings before the rain, flow slowly against the current of memories.

A wind blows open morning fields, rushes into rooms full of blended dust and light, wipes sweat off freshly bathed dreams.

The origins are within the span of a hand, when you come back you have gone through your entire life, or you wait to reincarnate into the next life.

Those souls that have yet to reincarnate, visit worshipping places, fly aimlessly, then shelter in fixed idolatry.

Someone runs across the dreams, the fruit and photos, to recover what he lost, to feel each tear choke back and see the amalgam of each shadow.

Origins have renewed space, and a generation of young grass is spreading over old ground.

Souls stand at new angles opening to different lights, and in the moan of fresh dew, they pause and knock on each vowel.

Everywhere new streams are beginning to pour into memories, taking the photos, the fruit, the dreams, to turn everything into a voice last night.

 

 

 

 

Sleep-walking

 

(For the writer Bùi Ngọc Tấn)

 

 

You toast

With your smile that scars the stone surface

Crystal trembles in your hand

 

You drink up the birdcalls

Dropping rotten footprints all over the cold stony veranda

Your blanket covers restless insect lives

You breathe each other

In unusual rains

 

A bowl deeply sunken as carved by a breast

A caged boar’s juice to spurt on a wooden pig(*)

You’re lucky to live through fits

As eyes of relatives amend your things

 

A blanket on white fields

Words make the soil pregnant

Through aberrations…

 

Grabbing the night wall

You have stood up who-knows-when

Someone pours into your sleepwalking steps

 

One more glass

One more…

 

____________
(*) In his novel, Bùi tells the story of a boar which is caged for too long. Upon release, it jumps on a wooden pig and performs copulation.



 

 

Wish of Resurrection

 

The inner sea brightens

sings in its desolate, straying, disintegrating state

tree sap clots

bodies with no antigens

silently die

 

All do not fear death

 

Pollens are scattered with insect bodies

Eyeballs explode outside eyeglasses

A girl’s tongue sleeps inside a fake denture

A kiss comes back to track down the void

A dry, bitter mouth laughs out loud in a water-choked voice

 

Beginning to get distressed

Beginning to forget

I turn back to bow at the shirt I have just hung on the rack

 

So tranquil yet regions are engulfed

 

Someone lays a hand on my forehead

in cool water

 

As to drop off unintentionally

or to break off intentionally

 

 

 

The Last Station

 

The door swings open. People are stuck to their ancestors in transparent blocks of ice. Every movement stops at the time of departure. The past begins to hiss around life which has been dead. All are frozen embalmed in artificial cold air. Frozen embalmed, the secret voices. Frozen embalmed, the terminal illnesses. Frozen embalmed, the ink drops that bind a pen’s tip tightly to paper, a wine cup raised eternally near one’s lips. A clump of dust thrown into the sky never returns. A person who stutters is ignored as he never goes past the word “and”…

 

Time is peeled off cluster by cluster. The more the past penetrates, the hotter their bodies become. And slowly their pride rises.

 

 

 

 

 

Unorganized Thoughts

 

 

Frantic winds tear off a ship’s hull, snatching all calculations for arrival at a destination. Dry brittle tongues in attacking positions are shaken, dragged and disarrayed on the streets. Fake shaking and oscillating motions change their rhythms abruptly due to unconscious spotlights flashing in memories. A spinning top still spins blindingly while lying in a pocket. An oar still paddles repeatedly when the boat lies on dry sand. The wind blows through one person to the next leaving open all their thoughts. Someone has an idea of putting thoughts into a toy. Place the old statue on this new table, no, better put it next to the lamp. Place this old pair of shoes in front of the mirror, no, next to that big tree. A child’s hand tries to detach fingers that dried and stuck to the pages. A dried fish on an iron hook wiggles and hurls itself into the lake. As one twists and turns objects so they can see each other, one sees that this is logical and perhaps illogical.

 

 

 

 

Meditation No. 18

 

 

The wind swims freestyle embracing butterfly wings fluttering bird calls dropping in frozen space sheds light on the scent of unmoved prosody that embalms trembling lips with dried blood from a figurine along with the figurine’s fossilized shadow.

The heart bottom is so deep that dead fetuses can never fill up a space with no traffic signs a space that keep changing the direction of an altar with a high hanging beehive stained with smoke from incense sticks oozing toxic liquids that erase images of the righteous ones who have chewed a concrete platform corner into crumbs out of sync lamp lights not yet turned off that shine faintly on footprints kneeling waiting for rotten fruit to fall into repentance.

Meandering in dark alleys many plaza faces cast from the same mould of jaws striking a pose calling out and shaking like a single pendulum in a narrow background full of colliding sounds which turn off automatically without reason when searching for the end of terror while turning back and throwing pity on a path able to draw only meaningless threads of lightning which cannot ignite.

Space is thick with mute thunder as with movements now meaningless when another life begins to sprout from the hard emotionless surface.

A shadow wrapping back onto its body experiences all the unfolding moment of soft-eyed reminiscence spreading out from the market corner which suddenly shows the sky from the perspective of a clock hand which goes into infantile epilepsy regardless to clamor or to shut up which is no way to touch the sap of young fruit.

 

 

 

 

Traces

 

 

A wall and a door that remains shut. A waft of spirit lunges towards me looking for the last emergency exit. Shattering my face like glass, the spirit escapes inside, through dark spaces which have impounded many memories. Eggs hatch one at a time into strange images, of fleeting lost souls entering a wedding party to feast, of someone lighting a lantern to scare off ghosts in trees, of a baby’s colic cry dangling over a fire. In a barely discernible halo, I hold on to a loudspeaker near the hamlet entrance in flood season. A hand of water already dried is stuck in a door slit. Not far is a thin fence. Not far away a herd of moss at its bearing time. The bruised pure spirits storm back for the final decision of truth. But the criteria they impose are too vague for truth can never be found; the only way out is to escape. No matter which direction they escape to, they cannot hide their traces. In the researchers’ notebooks, they will be called by their true Latin names.

 

 

 

 

Resonance II

 

(from “People of the Era”, Chapter VI)

 

 

All have been awake stirring their veiled ignorance to observe their own faces waiting for dawn. The sun has found an exit from dark night. Herds of sleepwalking stars stop emitting light and follow each other in panic, leaving the night sky soaking wet in stagnant pools. The sky above the field scatters and trees choke on their early morning voices that permeate deep into the ground, deep into our chests renewing at once our pristine cells with nourishing waves that rush back to fill us. A lush cloud in verdant color glides away and rots in time for the crop. In differing melodies, the first sound rings up from the gyrating thorn grass, its magnificent sonority pressing space to resonate. It’s almost time for a beginning.

We have pulled our hands and feet back from the delusions of dreams, each finger and toe still stiff from a life of fieldwork, a life in which the right hand depends on the left hand. Both hands depend on the sweaty inarticulate murmurings of a vegetative state of death, which can only freeze under an all-covering sleep paralysis. Now the freed hands wake up and understand how to collaborate when dawn is resurrected.

Each individual hesitantly says his name, bringing desire as natural as wild flowers. Each small petal confidently stands on its sepal. Space expands so that they can blow their endless voices up to the sky, making human’s breath echo the change of seasons along with the weather and soil.

One hears from the crowd a resonation of individual melodies, as auras shine on faces, weaving together then combining into a tower. A bell of heart has been hoisted.

Personalities are in harmony with the laws of nature. They render us rhythmic, they render us soothed, and they render us weeping.

We obey the law yet we are full of individuality. The I ultimately leads to the We.

When the intense scent mysteriously departs, the lotus pedestal carries the heavy weight of summer. The lotus leaves dream of wrapping green rice. The cicadas are still singing their last praises.

Birds lift their feet so their wings take acrobatic flight. We thank the empty space and the moment for such splendor to begin, for fragrances to bloom.

Personal melodies of freedom wake the season of herring. In the warmth, a tropical drizzle blends with enveloping fog, they leave the ocean to swim upstream, gathering in their sexual lust, turning the world into a paradise of amorous bliss.

Personalities and law, freedom and responsibility. From the teeter-totter in the play area of the park to the wings, which a few days earlier were folded inside an egg, now they beat their first movements.

The deep and dark, and the high and clear have earth and sky to resonate. First the wind blows into the base of walls and foundations. Then high windows are left open each night.

The lighthouse stands at ease before the storm, its base, having collapsed in high waves, stands rebuilt. The propellers have obeyed the steering wheel. Worries from a thousand miles land safely on tarmac.

People of the era see their path clearly thanks to pain that shines brightly behind them, as it shall shine on all the uplifted human faces. A new social convention is starting, more natural, more confident and truer, as assertive bells ring out, bringing down the ivory tower.

The right of ownership is beyond the good-versus-evil realm (a lesson one learns from the war) that politics are a moral cradle where goodness will be born, to grow up strong and be duly inherited.

Resonating footsteps console the soil, gleams from eyes turn into lightning, forecasting blissful rain over the fields.

Stored seeds are being sown. We also cast our minds into a hopeful horizon. In March we go into the field under the sound of thunder. The soft soil under our feet makes us thrive. Please learn the way of the seasons to grow in every circumstance.

Please learn to behave humbly with the lotus, the doves, the sediments, and the fertile land.

Our archetypal birds fly up while bronze drums are beating, to sit enthroned in sacred open space, waiting for new dreams at dusk. We resonate with our friends, comrades, and family.

We resonate with our wake-of-century dreams, so that there are no more dead beat fingers (sentimental fingers, rational fingers). So that all are sincere fingers, we hold together harmonious on a hand.

From an underground stream, a spring, or a river, each drop of water is full, strong with sea breath, churning and agitated as if poured down from the source of a fall. The transposing pressure resurrecting the ground, rushing in from microscopic root ends, towards the lush greenness on branches.

All dimensions of space and time are full of rumbling resonances.

I see our first kiss reappear like a third person, turning us into another couple of lovers. A miracle that such an extraordinary event originates from us.

I will speak to you in a biological environment, although I know there is a distance of a thousand miles between us.

 

 

 

 

Mail to You

 

(from “People of the Era”, Chapter VII)

 

 

Sent to the numbers nbn2761965...

 

TWO LIVING DROPS MEET INDETERMINATELY YOU STIR ME UP WAVE AFTER WAVE SLOWLY SINKING INTO YOUR SMOOTH SKIN AND FINE HAIR CONDUCTED VIA PROPRIETARY CODES SCENTED CURVES VAGUELY MYSTERIOUS VIBRATING FREQUENCY TO OPEN PALATE LARYNX SUPPORTING YING SUPPLEMENTING YANG FULL JAW OF TEETH NO MATTER HOW THE COSMOS CHANGES I GIVE OUT THE SCENT OF LOTUS SEEDS FAREWELL TO BROWN MUD YOUR LIPS HOLDING THE STAR OF VOID SHINING ON MY DESTINY WHICH I KNOW NO OTHER THAN RUNNING AROUND MY CHILDHOOD BAREFOOTED AND SOILED THE BRIGHT LIGHT INSISTENTLY LOOKING FOR A STAR LYING IN DEEP WATER OF THE VASE OF NIGHT WHEN OUR LIPS COME TOGETHER SUDDENLY THIS DROP SEES THAT DROP AS ITS MOTHER ON WHOSE GLEAMING FOREHEAD APPEAR THE INNUMERABLE EYEBALLS CONVERGING A BLEEDING RADIANT ENERGY SIZING UP HORIZONS SO AS THE CENTURY PASSES THEY REFRACT WITHIN US UNUSUAL LENGTHS RUNNING HASTILY FROM STAMENS TO A BEE’S FEET WHICH HAVE JUST REDUCED SPACE LEAVING ITS HIVE BEGGING FOR THE WEAK AND CREDULOUS SMOKE NOT TO LEAVE THE FIRE IN WORSHIPPING THE ELUSIVE FORSAKEN CLOUDS WHICH HAVE BEEN SLOWER THAN THE HILL SLOPES WITH MAIMED ARMS OF BRANCHES AND ROTTEN FEET OF ROOTS COLLAPSING UNDER THE CAVALIER FLOOD PARADING THE EXHAUSTIVE WRITHING THIRSTS AND AN ONSET OF DELIRIUM IN CONVOLUTED NIGHTMARES WE BECOME SWEET AND SOUND AGAIN AND WE HAVE THE CHANCE TO BATHE DRAWING TINY DROPLETS DEEPLY INTO OUR INTERNAL ORGANS THEN EVAPORATE IN A SOFT WARM BLANKET OF DAWN ACCUMULATING ON THE PLASTIC CONCRETE SURFACE I TRY TO REVERBERATE INTO BREATHLESS NATURE THE GIANT IMPASSIVE HOUSE STOPPING THE FLIGHT OF DRAGONFLIES BY THE SUDDENLY DEAD KITE ON THE HIGH-VOLTAGE GRID WOUNDED WILD-FOOTED HORIZONS LIMPING UP BEGGING TO MEET THE WINGS OF WILD WINDS QUICKLY CONNECTING TO THE COLLAPSED LUNGS NOW EXPANDING AGAIN TO COMMAND THE FAST ROOFING OF A HUT TO COVER UP THE DECAYING MEMORIES WHICH WANDER TO THE FUTURE AND PANIC WHEN MEETING ME BELIEVING TO BE BORN VIA THE METHOD OF GENE CLONING I SEE MYSELF GETTING LOST AT THE END OF THE ROAD OUT OF THE SELF MY VOICE BROKEN UP OR THE SOUNDLESS CRY OF SHARP-POINTED RODS PENETRATING DEEP INTO MY VEINS THE HUT SHIELDING ME FROM ACID RAIN BEING FEMININE NOUNS TRANSMITTING THE ESSENCE OF REAL FLOWERS TO PLASTIC FLOWERS THE CALLS OF FOREST BIRDS OPENING THEIR MOUTH FOR THE RECORDING TAPES BLOATING THE EARLY DEW THE CLOUDS OF DUSK GUIDING THE BIRDS BACK ON A 3D SCREEN OF SPACE BEARING ILLUSIONS OF HUMANISTIC HUMAN-BORN FETUSES FLOWERING SHAPING UP THE CONTOUR EDGES STRETCH SEGMENTS ALBEIT NOT YET FORMING A ROAD IT HAS MET OUR FEET CALLING EACH OTHER SO THAT RED BLOOD FLOWS BACK INTO OUR VEINS IN THE DIRECTION OF INVERTED TIME PRAYING DAWN FOR LOVE BEING ABLE TO TAME MATTER AS WELL AS ANTI-MATTER ACCORDING TO THE CHOSEN CODES INCLUDING THE BLOOD-RED CHLOROPHYLL WHICH IS CONSTANTLY PROPAGATING IN YOU.

 

 

 

 

Waking Up in the Rain

 

 

1.

 

I open the door on a dark day

The mist rushes in with its moisture

 

I stir up the furnace

To dry my coat and scarf             

Of regrets

 

Still swallowing your kiss

I turn my head to look through the window

A pigeon lands on the porch roof

Rain attaching to purple wings

 

Spring wind is everywhere

A cobweb of veins rushes across the lime wall

 

No need to flap wings

No need to fly away

The pigeon and I

Sprout into green buds.

 

2.

 

The blanket so warm I cannot sleep

I imagine you come over and open up my ceiling

You untie your curls of hair and wrap me tight

You pull me up and keep me hovering in the night

 

You turn with the winds

Sometimes you let me touch

The lake’s icy surface

The exhausted soil

The dew soaked grass

 

Drop me down!

You drop me down!

 

At that moment I become a seed

Shooting out my roots and seed-leaves

 

For fruit to ripen, for good wine to be brewed

And for birds’ eggs to be kept warm through the night

I hold on to these images until morning.

 

3.

 

You drop me down like sowing seeds

 

I am awake when the wet greenery lights up the sky

Raindrops come together to play drums on the roof

The earth softens until our breathing spreads out fast

 

You draw up the blanket in shyness to cover your breasts

Just in case someone drops by to tidy up the room

 

In that unfinished dream

Suddenly new leaves sprout up in droves

 

Inside each other we bury small seeds

They are dropped in with early morning kisses.  

 

4.

 

The earth begins a new revolution

A faster one

 

The sun has gone home with darkness

The flora, footprints

And houses with doors shut tight

 

Worker bees fly back

When the hive and the queen bee are no more

The scent of earth finds the raindrops strange

 

The sky horse is delirious with speed

It staggers while tightly grasping tree branches

The eagle spreads its wings on the mountain top

The sea suffocates a river’s mouth

 

I kiss you for a long time to mark

This place. This hour

When clouds descend

The earth returns to the original day.

 

5.

 

A bird nest bloody with dirt

Coils from forest trees

A running stream

Woven by a vision

 

From you I am born into one, two, three…

Multiplying into thousands

This me

And this me too

 

One, two, three… I kiss you

The bird’s nest full of sunlight

Reeks of forest bulbs

And is filled with the scent of forest flowers

 

No matter where we are

We weave into each other to make another nest.

 

6.

 

We are together more

Before a transparent dawn rises up

 

Flowers suddenly wake unfolding under shades of trees

A water spider dwells in decaying straws

Vetiver roots

Are twisting deep underground

 

The flowing current

Keeps flowing

Holding the two of us back

 

Each kiss opens one more door

We hold each other’s hand tightly

Clutch each other’s arm tightly

For fear of finding loss       

 

Bewildered as a heavy rain comes

We recognize our childish hands

Our tottering feet

Walking on earth

 

Perhaps the day is late

Yet we are still in each other’s arms waiting to see dawn.

 

7.

 

The photo shows you walking on a stony seashore

Incidentally I take it as another picture

Seeing you as a small dot in a field

Very lightly drawn with just a drop of color

 

A slope of smooth sand

The path to shore being the field

Your hair wrapped by wind around a silent branch

 

I wish that a fearless flock of birds could fly into this moment.

And swoops down to collect grains of paddy rice

 

I will forgive the hungry meadow mice emerging from their earthly dwellings

Forgive the rainstorm making heads of rice drop

Forgive the scalding sunlight

For all the sun can give

Rosy sunlight, late afternoon sunlight

Which make each blossoming rice field glow at once.

 

8.

 

Waves on the Bạch Ðằng river run over

The deposits on my shoulder

 

I drive a pile deeply in to anchor a kite

While thanking my father and mother

 

Roots of mangrove and cork tree silently twine together

Reeds at water edges stir under the sun

 

Brooding in the grass

Burying itself in your tiny hand

 

A big fish is thrown on the ground.

 

9.

 

I bend down to pick up any object - a pebble, a blade of dried straw, and somebody’s thread of hair… My memories remind me of the clothes you wear, peeled off shoes, areas of flesh.

 

My touch lets me know the pebble is very soft, the blade of dried straw bends under its weight, and the thread of hair breathes lightly.

 

I hold them for a very long time.

Toss them to the ground. Fling them up to the sky and catch a raindrop.

 

10.

 

I stretch out my arms and breathe

My wide-spanning body

Opens up to water

 

My body

A tiny door

 

I bend my body in the coolness

And relax

I rearrange my bones

The current washes away every dead cell

 

I lie down in the grass and breathe in deeply

Compressing the sky

A birdcall blows up a high wind

 

To be a seed, the hand that sows

To be fishing bait, a fish trap, seaweed…

 

Waves come relentlessly

Pouring onto an imaginary ship's deck.

 

11.

 

My tongue’s tip touches the cream

Shaped as a flower

A horizon drawn by somebody

 

I bite hastily

And eat hesitantly

Wanting you to know I am here

 

This half-finished cake

A flock of ducks paddling by

Nectar season for bees

 

A cake which has been in the oven becomes soft and fine

Place a slice next to a fragrant cup of tea and a sharp knife.

 

12.

 

I miss you as I read a book. A scene envisioned from these pages is animated in a powdery silver light. A character from the story has just washed his hands with gleaming moonlight. The flesh imbued scent of moon flows down a deep groove in the ground, from where, now and again, a reed stalk rises up and wavers. The text continues with the scene of fog descending on a small village. A young barefooted woman carries rice into the forest. A skirt of forest full of moonlight. A man lies asleep, dreaming of wild mangosteens arranged into a throne, awaiting his awakening… Light isn’t mentioned in the text. I imagine images under the moonlight. Those stories full of moonlight.

 

13.

 

From black cavities holding inserted seeds

Young shoots rise up

Birds’ fly

 

The tender roots know

That earth has embraced sky for a long time

 

As soon as seed coats are dropped

They release greenness to the vast fields

Brimming with sweet sap

 

As days grow deeper

Young shoots covering the soil turn luxuriant.

 

14.

 

The fresh rose stigmas

And the pure white petals

Open a sky of breath

 

I breathe green grass

Rugged rocks, an edge of abyss

The breaths of gibbons, wild as their flesh

 

The flowers’ delirious scents and colors

Touch me and fade away

They fade away

 

My lips turn into the bill of a hummingbird

Whose wings beat constantly to stay in the same place.

 

15.

 

Bones of winter

Flesh of spring

Lilies open their immaculate, white petals

 

A vague fragrance

Fills up the room

 

I reach for the flower vase

And turn all the sepals in another direction

 

Bright green flower stalks lean on me

 

Waiting for each drop of pristine

White grounds to be blown on top like a storm.

 

16.

 

It’s fruit-bearing season for the trees

They hold the wind inside and become heavy

 

I am the nutrient

To relieve all trees from fatigue

 

I lean against a tree trunk

Listening to bird songs

My blood flows along the trees’ bones

As I pollinate the stamens

 

While young fruit buds

My saliva is acrid when swallowed

 

The wind wraps me on a tree

For its fruit to ripen.

 

17.

 

A giant flower

Hugs me in my sleep

 

Its stalk reaches through the sky

And I can’t see its root

 

Throughout my dream the flower hardly withers

As morning comes each petal shrinks

Into a bud

 

I have been through a lifetime of dreaming

To wake up into a lifetime of loving

 

As I run towards where the current of scents ends

I see a pathway

 

When I touch a tiny flower

All flower stems on this earth tremble.

 

18.

 

Raindrops touch my face and lightly stir.

 

In the sound of rain, aquatic beasts rise, their fish-like fins gliding back and forth. A shrimp bends and springs in my wave-choked body.

 

Let water not drizzle or drip. Let it drain into lakes and streams making rocks soften and expand.

 

My bare arms prop up a tree trunk. Buds are wet.

Some raindrops touch my skin and my tongue, suggesting curves and a waist of rain.

 

Thunder rolls at the very moment I imagine a big fish splashes its way out of my body. It emerges, then swims away calmly in the rain.

 

19.

 

I look at a flamboyant canopy and see fluffy strands of early fog move over the lake

A smile like agitated waves

 

You often forget this lake by your side

Its mist rises as you talk, smile and make up

 

On your way you feel suddenly cool

Everywhere you go the lake follows

Someone splashes water on each organ

Waves draw you away, then submerge you to their deep bottom

 

You open the door and look into a crowded street

An electric wire from your neighbor’s has fallen across an artemisia pot

 

Nearby the lake spreads out

Turns into your eyes looking at me.

 

20.

 

Not knowing how many flowers there are in the vase

I bow down to a lotus pedestal

 

I remember having sat on a chair

Holding a glass of water

Leaning on the table

 

The lotus scent carries me to a mountain top

On its peak, clouds fly past

There is no footstep or sound from any forest animal

 

I remember being a bullet, a thorn

A sharp and pointed arrow soaked with lotus blood on rocks.

 

Now why do I still think of a piercing arrow, a bullet and a thorn?

 

The pure scent of flowers covers the mountain rocks

It covers the bare vegetation where soil is void

A lizard grows bold

In a space vacant of human beings

 

I raise my head so the lotus scent no longer carries me away

Look here, one… two… petals have fallen

Touching the ground with a sound.

 

21.

 

A photo is smooth and aromatic

From morning sunlight

And a lotus flower next to it.

 

All those pure white petals

Spread out to cover the whole space

 

Following the scent

I slip inside your eyes

Your jewels, clothes and scarves

 

I open a drawer to find a notebook

Choose the colors for my paper and ink

Let my tea draw

Leaf to boiling water

 

As I set myself tasks

Some new flowers have bloomed

Next to the picture frame without a door.

 

22.

 

Pour water down

It permeates

In the dry ground, the sound of roots dying

 

Roots, bristling and bloodless, are floundering

Where are you who swing and sway, where is all your verdant?

Where is this photosynthesis?

 

Once touched by water

Roots take flight

 

Bodies swell with sap flowing to the tree top

Cracks open the bark

The soil and space

 

Where is the wind?

Where are the birds?

 

Someone shakes the tree trunk for one moment

 

Just as I think it over,

Cool water spreads all over my body.

 

23.

 

Hiding inside me

You hear me being silent, talking or laughing

Our feet are within each other’s

Your hands are for me to use

 

Midsummer

Sunlight from relentless waves

Shimmers and sparkles

You raise my hand to cover your face

 

Schools of fish show their silvery scales

They cut straight lines on water

Dividing the sea surface into many parts

 

My heart is infused by beautiful scenery

Which dissolves

In blue waves as I look upon you

 

You lying in my heart

Why don’t you whisper something to me.

 

24.

 

Biting on an apple, you say

That inside there is a sea

A sweet and fragrant sea current

 

The sea ripens on a tree

The sea bed

Deep earth with tree roots

 

An estuary encases our lips

Nibbling at the shore

It stops where we are standing

Where people are making love

 

Far out in the sea the water is sweet

At the spring

The rainwater is still sweet

 

You say although it is as small as an apple

If I lie the sea will submerge me to death.

 

25.

 

A tree trunk stands

Holding up a sky of ripened fruit.

 

26.

 

… the rain penetrates …

 

Waves are mute

Mountains are unmoved

Stiff roots crisscross

Bird eggs lie under mother bird’s belly

A lizard stays immobilized

Bells stop ringing

Clouds swirl around a tower top

The pavement stands momentarily still

the rain penetrates

 

Waves hurl themselves down a gorge

Bells ring endlessly

Birds flap their wings

The lizard leaves on a journey

With the pavement, the clouds, the trees…

 

27.

 

We pull up the ground

to discover many grounds that we haven’t visited

 

Together we look at thousands of hidden cross sections

To realize we have changed yet remain naive forever

Tomorrow still in love

Our hearts beating wild like the first time

 

In my heavy breathing I know

Our hands hold seeds

Sow… Sow…

We sow…

 

Seeds unintentionally dropped on our way

Rise up as immense greenery

 

We pull up the ground so that cool air and bird calls

Are folded into deserted places

So that daylight resounds in deep earth

 

I am opening a myriad of doors into every object

Into other spaces. Other worlds.




Biography of Nhat-Lang Le

 

Nhat-Lang Le was born in 1969 in Saigon, emigrated with his family to France in 1983, and moved to the U.S. in 1985. He has a B.A. in Linguistics and Computer Science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Nhat-Lang Le worked for more than a decade as a software programmer, before switching careers to work as a news translator and editor for a Vietnamese media organization based in the Little Saigon area of Southern California. His poems and translations have appeared in the printed magazines Thế Kỷ 21, Văn Học and Văn, and the literary e-zines Tiền Vệ (tienve.org) and Da Màu (damau.org). He has been on Da Mau’s editorial staff since 2007.

 

 

 

 

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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