OUT OF THE DARK (Collected Poems) - Mai Văn Phấn. Translated from Vietnamese by Nguyễn Tiến Văn. Edited by Susan Blanshard

Mai Văn Phấn

Translated from Vietnamese by Nguyễn Tiến Văn

Edited by Susan Blanshard

 

 

 

 

Page Addie Press of the UK, 2013.
Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2013.


 

 

 

 

OUT OF THE DARK
(Bản tiếng Việt rút từ tp thơ "Hôm sau" & "và đột nhiên gió thổi")

 

 

 

 


Translator Nguyễn Tiến Văn

 

 

 

 


Poet Susan Blanshard
 

 

 

 

Early Spring Night

 

 

Waiting around the lamp

with its radiating, broken light

it seemed somebody was holding a torch

to examine each face one by one.

 

A game was invented to kill time

each person's face lights in turn

to name the way spring begins.

 

The following sentences were noted down:

The cold-evading bird worked like an arrow

falling on the wall of winter.

− A face looking through the window

evoked coarse writing.

− A drop of mist divided

the root of a fresh grass into an abyss…

 

The casual jokes

became fatal in sky and earth

Things moved by themselves

the shadow of the mountain shuddered

birds called on the winds for a change of seasons.

 

Raising the wick of the lamp

Hordes of arrows swiftly flew over the rooftops.

 

 

 

 

Variations of the Crow

 

 

The smell of death draws the wick to the zenith

The crow shines brightly.

 

*

 

Birth

After the crow's croaking

Irresistible departure

The pouch has been opened

Unconcealed deterioration

The herb doctor burned his books at the end of the garden

New medicines in stock had expired

The witches suffered punishment

Their mouths closed by iron hooks

 

Birth

When the bell suddenly dropped

Covering the old temple warden's head

The fish committed suicide by jumping into a cloud

Ten thousand fishing hooks, hanging in the sky

 

Birth

Ink was splattered under feet and blood

Congealed in throat and lung arteries

With a stroke on the first page

Thousands of pages were permeated.

 

*

 

Fallen from the summit

With two sharp wings

Centering on the corpse

Slashing the atmosphere

Hurried winds had no time for bandages.

 

*

 

Clawing from the eye sockets

The viewpoints

With posthumous pictures as evidence

Cut out the tongue

Stretch to dry off in the sun

the slogan's lesson

Slice off flesh piece by piece

Dismember limbs

Show the innards

 

The skull all set up

Was completely covered with mold

This epitaph could not be written.

 

*

 

The crow dreamed

All deaths were arranged

 

After the crow's croaking

Who volunteers to lie down.

 

*

 

The crow flew into the room

A finger raised slightly

Implying:

               This is the gun muzzle

               The scythe

               Even the spade

               Even the very hard finger

Rather it was frozen

Then defrosted

Then melted down.

 

*

 

Do not approach the shade

It was the crow

Spreading its wings at sunset, sunrise

 

With its claws clinging to the winds

To grind dry leaves

To prune outreaching branches

 

The poet took refuge in the shade

Each letter hollowed out of an eye.

 

*

 

To look at

Things

Glaringly

Because in the wink of the eye

The shadow of the crow

Stormed in.

 

One's own shadow

Did not raise its voice

For fear of turning into a chick.

 

*

 

A number of people emerged from the crowd, clad in black, wearing black masks. While running, they slapped their arms on their flanks. They tried to raise their heads by stretching their necks. The black shadow hovered close to the ground.

 

*

 

Perched on a tree fork after overeating and napping, the crow dreamed that every mouthful of food squeezed into its stomach would turn into an egg. The crow chicks crept in groups from the five organs and immediately lowered themselves to hunt with the instinct of a bird of prey.

 

*

 

The utmost sufferings looked back on a life almost dead. The cloak gave a muffled shout when passing desk and drawers. The telephone slept silently. The staple opened its mouth to hide its claws. The broomstick gripped the laborer's arm, and pulled her to the garbage dump. The hat brim on the head cried out in panic, then bent down to devour the entire face of the guard. Nobody opened the gate. Yet many people managed to find an entrance.

 

*

 

The disembodied souls looked for a way back to fight the evil crows. After the volley of non-lethal bullets, smoke from incense joss-sticks spread onto a board, with the first word written for the new lesson.

 

*

 

This is the last line in a testament:

Start the celestial burial at the appearance of the crow's shadow”.

 

*

 

The night shadow crept into the crow's belly.

 

And ours too. With gnawing pain together on the hungry river. The drops of troubled water found a way to pass through cotton fibres. The huge surface of water, its vibrations, wishing to keep hold of human shadows. Strike a match and remember that the wick is very distant. Throw up both arms, raise your voice alone in the darkness.

 

The crow out of sorts through the might

Craws in fright

 

For the first time the sound goes out without an echo.

 

 

 

 

Accompanying the Guest Out of the Alley

 

 

After brewing tea

When I returned

The guest was gone

Speaking on the phone

His family said he had been dead seven years

A misunderstanding

 

At home

All in turmoil

No memory of when the portrait was taken down

Where was the winding clock?

To whom was the fake ancient teapot given?

 

Dropping in on the neighbour         

To check several food items

Some with higher prices

Some remained unchanged      

 

In the house

The tea still hot

Pushing a cup towards the guest's vacant place

 

A deadly vapour six meters high suddenly rose up

Bowing down in front once in a while.

 

 

 

 

Unbelievable

 

 

A bee flying into the room

was it made of plastic or wood?

a body scarred with half finished cuts

truly it had flown in

by fluttering its perfect wings

 

A bee should not be trusted

I checked for minor movements:

there were still 532 pages in an old book

I pressed my fingernail, cleared the bowl of my pipe

tried to write the reports, tried to sign my signature, tried to destroy dossiers

 

Apparently

all domestic animals

were manufactured from waste:

the tri coloured cat was born from rags

the fish swimming in the bowl was welded from beer cans

the nightingale singing in the cage was made from a broken pot

the dog rubbing its head against my hand was a bundle of old newspapers

the ants patiently carrying food were once a pile of sawdust.

 

 

 

 

My Elder Brother

 

 

When nearer to the earth and farther from the sky, my elder brother trusted me with his memories. He told me his memories were precious. But my own memory store was overfilled, mouldy and some thoughts were rotten. Outdated. Obsolete. I suggested that we paint or write to each other. But he was in no way an artist or a writer. I offered other solutions: stay cut-off, try to restart, reduce down, stop suddenly, leave or disappear...

 

He looked at me, profoundly sad!

 

I watched the river water changing colour, overwhelming the shore's drooping grasses with smooth, shiny silt. Water silently exhaling. I never knew. The moon rose early, childlike and smelling of straw. Missing love immensely.

 

He looked at me, profoundly sad!

 

The newly washed shirt was wrinkled. Then fragile fibres became smooth under the burning iron. Washing, ironing, washing and ironing… Life sometimes resembles the pendulum of a grand-father clock. I try to fantasize so to keep from thinking.

He waited while I washed my hands. Affection I held for him.

 

He looked at me, profoundly sad!

 

The water rushed from the faucet, infinitely cool. I looked at the soap bubbles foaming on my wet polished skin. I felt very clean. Very refreshed.

 

 

 

 

It's Just So

 

 

Going out

he wore a kingfisher wool coat, low-crotch trousers

short haircut

and was holding a book

 

at the door, he kept muttering:

morn & dusk… odour & perfume… pump & leak… walk & fall… strike & love… sour & ripe… silent & crying… close & detached, gulp & be stuck… reveal & conceal… threaten & abstain… give & take… cover & discover… mistake & die… dig & find…


 

 

fastening the wooden latch

stretching the sliding door

he clapped on five padlocks

then threw the keys indoors

 

Overturning the blankets on his sleeping spot

he found a piece of paper with clumsy writing:

Whoever finds me anywhere, please call this number…

Thanks and a handsome reward”.

 

behind the piece of paper an echo resounding:

spurn & be dirty… shame & complain… dissolve & rest… dream & awake… invite & abandon…

 

 

 

 

A Lesson

 

 

The forearm and elbow must be hard

From the wrist to the fingers it must be soft

Dance the dignified hand in the bag

 

I have learned this lesson since childhood

(Once I suffered contempt as fermented boiled rice

A dignified guy once kicked me off the sidewalk

Once is enough for a lifetime!)

 

The dignified killed a mosquito

The dignified made a commonplace statement

The dignified inclined himself vacantly

The dignified stole a raincoat

The dignified exhaled bad smells into other people's mouths

The dignified mistakenly covered a rotten tooth

The dignified pissed in a public place

The dignified wept in his handkerchief

The dignified rectified his prick through his pocket in a conference

The dignified blew his nose at a windowpane

The dignified picked money from a beggar

The dignified eavesdropped on phone calls

The dignified peeped at women's breasts at a funeral

The dignified put his signature on scientific research

The dignified composed love poems in his impotence

The dignified dropped viruses into other people's emails

The dignified fraudulently substituted his exam papers

The dignified spent hell's currency

 

The forearm and elbow must be hard

From the wrist to the fingers it must be soft.

 

 

 

 

Only a Dream

 

 

They closed people's mouths

robbed everything

and asked for my genitals.

 

Asking is a way of talk

because if I did not consent

the precious organ would be thrown into the cesspit

(they also knew the secret of mantra).

 

I said:

you many take all

but let me keep something personal

I volunteer to be your plaything, your rag, your buffalo, or your dog.

 

I stooped to accept the yoke on my shoulders

I puffed up my hair and began barking loudly

I shook my body and cried “pip, pip”

I ground myself on the floor.

 

I ran around and foamed at the mouth

I was streaming with sweat, I pretended to be dead

I was broken, out of tune, burst off

I was drenched and could be squeezed out.

 

 

 

 

The Endless Dream

 

In memory of Diễm Châu, a poet

 

 

The rain made you cold no more

falling on the dream close to morning

turbid troubled waves

stroked on the mangrove swamps at your birth.

 

The sky was without a covering roof

the star shone brightly on thick spectacles

casually put on the keyboard

on the morning of December 28, with rainfall.

 

The rain was bitingly cold to the bones!

The earth was bitingly cold to the bones!

 

Turning the pages in your open book

a child's cry was heard in the foliage

in a bird's wings just spreading*

in a low-flying cloud

 

The winds rushed in

wrapping white scarves around mangrove trees

in the zenith the coffin was rolling up and down.

____________

(*) After a poetic image from Diễm Châu

 

 

 

 

Him

 

 

I.

 

In darkness swallowed up by darkness

he was sitting and muttering…

 

… mumbling an uninterrupted sound

of the unformed darkness

of the darkness gradually swallowing darkness

of a blackness that couldn't be blackened further.

 

He was a climax of perfection:

of the restored mirror/ of the moulted insect/ of lost virginity/ of the broken cable/ of unblocked sewage…

 

a waste dump of rags/ of broken glass/ of tampons/ of outmoded shoes…

a stray bullet hitting the target/ the regenerative canals/ the river meeting the sea…

 

Gropingly climbing up the high tree he shouted:

Hey, focus the light here!

 

Following the dim-lit flashlight

everybody saw him stretching both arms to glide as an angel.

 

II.

 

He laughed, raised his fist to strike through the cut-out hole in the cardboard. The skinny fingers curled up into an iron fist to dart through the unobstructed center. His hand looked for the pleasure of a dog plunging through a great wall. The position of the cardboard was of a too short distance from the flying fist. A thirst for breathing.

 

Each time he thrust his fist through the hole, his fingers spread out wider. The cardboard became a swimming jellyfish caught in a cluster of fishhooks. Turning over the cardboard, he sung: The sky is blue, ah… here is my broad chest…

 

On the other side of the cardboard emerged another world. Of bulletin boards, old teachers, examination reports, markets, badges of commemoration, sewage clearance workers, associations of compatriots, monks, body shampoos, mouse-traps, prophets… And here even the fashion was totally different (he thought so!). No wonder both fists could not get through together (!)

 

He threw the cardboard into a garbage can, adopted a rigid upright stance, and beat incessantly into the conventional hole, thrusting in at a dizzy speed.

 

A prediction on the future of sports. With a solemn title in the evening edition of the newspaper, his name was seen in the roster of champions.

 

 

 

 

Coming in Thoughts

 

 

1.

 

The eyes as holes cut out in a bamboo lattice, the arms as sailing ropes, the feet as dried leaves warped up on the ground. And his mouth, bottomless and opened, broke into fragments of burning lime.

 

He used to get inside my thoughts.

 

It was not true to say that I feared him. Or wanted to recruit him. No. Or being indifferent to, evading, even respecting him…, not so either. But he was woven into each of my breath. My wife explained: “Yang within yin, and yin within yang.”

 

End of arguing.

 

2.

 

I rode my motorbike in top gear. I gnashed my teeth. I clutched the back of his neck. Pulling him down to the ground. Passing the rows of trees, new and old walls, as people's silhouettes flashed at the rear. The target of my destination was to acquire the voucher of trust and recommendation, the answers to the interviews, the preparation of an envelope for a death anniversary, a meeting with a VIP… He stretched out all my sensory organs, stewed my thoughts, and crucified my nerves between both ends of the street.

The faces of my wife and children were seen in the pauses between the advertisements of famous brand names.

 

3.

 

He bargained over everything. A broken branch was hanging on the tree thanks to its foliage, with the other end pointing to the ground. Who would volunteer coming back as a bird, or as the wind?

 

Many mannequins are gesturing in these memories. None have distinct faces. He gave me free choice. No ballot was needed.

 

4.

 

I lost weight and suffered from chronic insomnia. He brought  several prescriptions I never used. Then, mortally striking a pet, by accident, as it played with other animals. And then, night after night, was heard talking to fur in its taxidermy. Or, bribing a person in the operating room to enter in disguise. And when the surgeon called for a pair of scissors, handed a threaded needle, and an injection of dope instead of anesthesia.

 

 

 

 

Syndrome From a Rumour…

 

 

I paid double for a shoeshine

paid double for a pair of plastic sandals

paid double for a fan, a pack of tooth picks

Please don't put your arm against the ground

don't snarl, don't narrow your belly, don't curl your body…

 

I don't bargain over the my children's tuition fees

don't bargain over the envelope money at conferences

don't bargain over haircut and shampooing

don't bargain over the charge of medical prescriptions

don't bargain over veranda refuge from the rain.

don't bargain over chair rent on the beach

 

Just show the bill through the casement

put the change behind the glass pane

stoop to hand the bundle of flowers on high

look upwards to the ceiling and give the speech

with self-confidence

drink water as a robot

cross a crowd like a no man's land

post the fishing pole and do other work

climb a rope ladder without clutching your hands.

and rev your motor to go away.

Please don't crane your neck

don't laugh and show your teeth

don't puff out your cheeks and round your eyes

don't claw your sharp nails forwards

don't curb your body to drink water from the river

don't tear the corpse of a cooked animal

don't crush brown flowers and fruit

don't stamp your feet or catwalk

don't curl yourself in sleep and snore too loudly

don't shout or grumble under your breath.

 

Remember not to stick out your head or arms

Remember to speculate and be studious in reading

Remember not to kick or spit on the walls

Remember to cover your mouth while sneezing

Remember to flush after using the toilet

Remember to pronounce full words clearly and roundly

Remember to raise your glass and drink slowly

Remember to pull the blanket squarely in your sleep

Remember to brush your teeth and use your comb…

 

… “… some brutish animals have left the jungle…”.

 

 

 

 

Learning to Behave Oneself

 

 

The house of the hamlet chief was hit

from the road running directly to its door.

The book of feng shui teaches that careless design

is a cause of disaster.

 

The book also notes

in the section on physical moles

on page 267, third line from the bottom

about people with promiscuous behavior.

 

A dark mole was definitely identified on the left eye of the woman in charge of collecting power bills

caught last night

when she embraced and kissed the hamlet chief

in a dog-meat inn…

The report is made into five copies

all with the same legal validity.”

 

The innkeeper knew potential trouble

when people came to search for evidence

and interrogated him for five hours

returning home he was reprimanded by his wife

“Stupid old man, even with your white hair!”

 

He felt a bitter taste in his mouth

as anger rose in his throat

but thinking about the situation

he found it was entirely correct

after sneaking several cups of alcohol

he went in the garden to see sunrise.

 

Next time keep the knowledge in your belly

Speaking up is no good.

 

 

 

 

If

 

 

I slept on the cot

The dog on the floor

at a distance of 3.75 meters.

my wife told me later

she made the measurement

 

It started raining

And the dog and I, we both started dreaming.

 

The dog dreamed:

of waking in early sunlight

familiar with the scent of passers-by

no need to rush out and bark angrily

suffering no disparagement and beating

and having its familiar food readily served

 

I dreamed:

of sleeping at night without locking the door

going out without being cheated

meeting people who speak their own minds

a glimpse of good dishes and bright sun

Poor dog!

  

My tears woke me up

My pain was rolling in like whitecaps.

 

And if there was no rain last night?

If I did not sleep on the cot?

If the distance was not 3.75 meters?

What then?

 

 

 

 

The Formidable Mouth

 

 

The mouth flow probably belonged to the dead

one moment on high

the next touching the ground.

 

the skeleton of that mouth now withered to dust

Is it still bright yellow

or else dull black in an earthen pot?

 

But the mouth is still alive and kicking

sometimes tightly closed

and sometimes smiling tolerantly.

 

I have put word sounds into the mouth

like I have struck on the key Search for a website

The results overwhelmed me

Did I fall into a slow ambush?

Or did viruses contaminate the software?

Or was a piece of coal just dropped on a block of ice?

 

The mouth did not emit any sound

only a sequence of silent film appeared.

I have inserted the sounds of sticks,

 

the sounds of preparatory command, and command

the voice of one person

and also the voice in unison

 

The mouth is still on the flow

If requires only a thought emitted by somebody.

 

 

 

 

The Story is Not Over

 

 

The cockroach crawled around me and said

it was just reincarnated for three months

and in the previous life it had been a decent person

 

A decent person, why resigned to a flattened fate?

I did not believe and swung the door-frame

Where is your witness? Your evidence?

 

The cockroach raised one of its hairy legs

yes, it might be taken for an arm

struggling from an iron vice,

or protruding from a luxury vest

of a person with a large mouth and an upright back

walking with broad steps and stiff knees

 

I had to continue imagining

for fear of being struck with blindness

The cockroach and I both joined a scientific conference

both wore mouthpieces, both watched flowers,

both lured birds, and overcame effects

both wiped sweat, and both predicted

 

The cockroach and me were even from now on

It moulted. I was insensitive.

It nibbled. I was submerged.

It climbed the wall. I had petty hatred.

It eliminated. I made foul play.

It was stinking. I was stubborn.

It was probing. I cleared the way.

It was overbearing. I was stupid.

 

 

 

 

Naive Life

 

 

I.

 

My wife said that to cure migraine

one has to lead a naïve life like plants.

 

Returning to the countryside I saw immense grasses

stretching both arms I waved with the wind

like rock fans move to their idols' songs.

 

I became tired after a while

a headache from the June sun

as I imagined spring rain

shady sky and gentle breeze.

 

II.

 

My wife said that even a scholar's mind

without any physical exercise

amounts to nothing.

 

I threw a rope over the roof beam

and tied one end to my hair

even in attentive reading

my arm was pulling as a coolie pulling a fan(*).

 

My wife and I took turns to sleep

determined not to have more than one needs

both engaged in thought while pulling the rope.

 

III.

 

I gardened to nourish the mind

drinking a cup of water after watering a tree

there were fifty-six of them in my house.

 

A bird's voice cast its net over the whole garden

twittering it wrapped me in layer after layer of cocoon

to escape I had to break its voice with my mouth

but my jaws were weak and my teeth were blunt.

 

Hesitating in a poetic state of mind

I prepared tea and offered it to the trees.

 

__________

(*) Before 1954 in Vietnam there was an occupation for laborers in cooling houses and public buildings. Ventilation and airflow was created by pulling a large rectangular fan made of bamboo lattice. This was wrapped in cloth suspended from the ceiling and equipped with a pulley. The laborers pulled the fan to create ventilation in the heat of summer.

 

 

 

 

A Hypothesis For the Next Morning

 

 

Of a taciturn old man

free of sadness, free of anger

who stayed all night long with a fish pole beside the swamp

to nourish his mind.

 

He dared not yawn

for fear of unawareness

swallowing all sorts of grasshoppers into his belly.

 

I stacked firewood for his respite

and left a cup of water outside.

 

When the early sun together with him

relied on the foot of the great mountain

set before the surface of the large lake.

 

Or the ground that erased all traces

As I became a dealer of fictitious tales.

 

Perhaps under the black dawn

filled up with black fish

the wind might catch him with a barbed hook.

 

 

 

 

Early Morning Sun

 

 

Water collected at the mountain's feet

A pebble was lying on a high rock

Without blinking in pristine solitude

 

Last night it rained

Who had been sitting there before or after heavy rain

 

All of a sudden I missed you, truly missing

I dared not look elsewhere

Or let the blue sky penetrate my heels

 

A heavy rain, truly heavy

Had given a bath to the little pebble

This single image by itself

Made me wildly enraptured with life

 

It seemed the early morning sun was enveloping the mountaintop

And rendered transparent the earth, and the trees.

 

 

 

 

Holding You in My Mouth

 

 

I always believe you are in my mouth

 

Where there is no war, no plague

No poisonous arrow furtively shot

No rumours, no traps, no deception

Where you tread has no sharp thorns

And I will raise a wall up against all raging storms

 

You gently push your shoulders,

Your chest, your toes against my cheeks

Talkative and silently singing

You innocently let my tongue and teeth touch your body

Secure in my mouth

 

I am a fish overfilled with moonlight

And leaving my school I leap into the sea in movements.

 

 

 

 

Hearing You on the Phone

 

 

On the phone your voice sounds clear and light

A drop of water just absorbed

A sprout just emerged

A ripe fruit just dropped down

A spring just flowing on

In the distance, at the other end of the line, there are rice-fields, villagers carrying bamboo poles and baskets. Vehicles and towers. Deep roots. Your voice does not cross over them but turns them into miniatures, and opens passage doors of communication between them. I hear you and with the help of deep roots, I can open up multiple sacred layers inside the warm earth; the river flows into the poles and baskets; the villages give birth to towers of fertility; the rice fields are green against traffic vehicles.

Please say more spontaneous nonsense to me.

In a moment when you put down the receiver, perhaps all things would dissolve away or return to the way they were

  Only left with the rippling of waves far away

  Only left with the chlorophyll dispersing

  Only left with the fragrance of tenderness

  And the rocky banks in all their trembling

 

 

 

 

Carrying the Water Basin

 

 

It was raining

I carried the basin of water

From the closed and warm room

 

The rain was drumming on the tin roof

On each step of the staircase

My body and my breath

Were fused into the basin

 

Suddenly in my imagination emerged the images of:

… pursuing you in the rain…

… you are bareheaded, dripping and soaked…

… I wear warm clothes, holding an umbrella…

… I am at leisure… you are at ease…

… you whizz past… I run out of breath…

… I keep my promise… never let you be wet…

 

But it’s so strange

When the water basin is held high

And your images appear in fragments

Their montage shows nothing of empathy.

 

 

 

 

Closed Eyes

 

 

With closed eyes the world appears unpolluted. The surrounding pure spaces are spreading and latticed. We see ourselves in childhood holding a bright candle in the church. The candlelight is filling eye-sockets, filling the hollow immobile gaps amidst secret verdant foliage. With closed eyes the forest resembles a garden. The rattan stems, the ferns and wild grasses take the shape of huge ancient trees. The needle leaves form a large canopy. The earth bee, the porcupine, the squirrel, and the bull are similar shapes… And I stayed motionless for a long time with my eyes closed. Even though my premonition had warned me, they were looking for a clue, fanning the wind, taking fright… With closed eyes we can see people and all things in justice and in a clear light. Pens and books, beds and drawers, knives and chopping boards, and the old bike were of the same size. Each human organ opens up with multiple strange eyes, while the venoms absorbed are permanently sealed up with no way of escape. With closed eyes you are not so busy as when I am with open eyes. But your silence makes queer resounding sounds, telling me that your love has penetrated the trees, the streets and houses, the gardens, the fields, and the rivers and springs… From now on we need not doubt anything until we close our eyes forever.

 

 

 

 

New Year Bath

 

 

without attaining purity after continuous purifications

I returned to take a bath with the lamp

 

I moved my shoulders towards the light

then both hands

my feet, my chin, my knees

even both eyes and my dry coughing

 

pouring light into all hidden recesses

each of them working as a germinator of sprouts

as a forge to temper hot iron with water

as an incubator for eggs

as a grafted trunk sticking out lateral branches

 

taking a bath to welcome the new Spring

immersing oneself in light

while silently evoking grandparents and parents

the body rises towards the lamp

 

light pours profusely while I called your name

it was hovering in pregnancy

I tried to call somebody in the faraway region

the still lamp became all the more brighter

and brighter.

 

 

 

 

The Wind Blew

 

 

We kissed each other in the narrow alley

on the green lawn, in dark corners

on the belfry, beside old trees…

 

From the four directions water overflowed and made our feet wet

when the wind blew powerfully

 

Like an inchworm you climbed on my body

and whispering, nibbled all my fresh greens

 

The bee still hovered leisurely in its flight

the waterfalls were monotonous, the rain very slow

but all treetops were decanted in one direction.

 

 

 

 

The Underground Rain

 

 

The raindrops fell. You reminded me that we were once drops of water. Purely you fell on me. So I could know nature and all things around were made of water. All of you waited for my approach. The block calendar was opening to the new day. The floor, the picture frames, the furniture were always clean. Fragrant tea had just been poured. The bowls and chopsticks were already steam dried. The knives and scissors were suddenly sharpened. The books were put in order. And the door latch opened by itself when I went out.

 

*

 

Wearing a showerproof coat you looked like a cocoon moving on the street. Vehicles crisscrossed together with human threads. Piling up and encroaching were the fashion of jeans and trousers, made with coarse fabrics, and textures intertwined with silk… It all started with you and your baggy coat. The mobile cocoon on a motorbike, sending a message through a mobile phone: I finished the conference. Remember to wear a helmet and drink lots of water. Ten minutes had passed already, you only went to buy several measures of rice, and maybe you just crossed a one-way street with a turning. Or else you also bought milk for the baby, at best you could, only getting close to the roundabout junction of five streets.

You passed through each scorching sunny wall. Through houses as large as baggy coats.

 

*

 

Today you prepared sour fish soup with some onion stalks added. You asked me why I ate so slowly. I heard, and felt wretched as an onion stalk in early summer rain. The sounds of fish splashing in surprise during a silent night. And the perfume of spices pervasive at the wall's profundity. The bowl of sour soup was like a deep well with its invisible bottom. You were too silent within yourself to make the onion stalk done to a turn. We were like worms and ants self-confident in overcoming so many entrapments. We survived even after having drunk poison by mistake. The blinding enchantment of human merchandise in the market.

The hot soup bowl opened the door to our narrow living room.

 

*

 

The trace of my lips was like a woodpecker on an old tree. Its little beak rendered the forest tree new foliage, and the rotten trunk as resurrection. The green canopy was enveloping, murmuring, and ascending. With closed eyes, I heard inside the tree trunk, the rising of the sun and a shooting star in its wandering. The four seasons of weather excited the woodpecker’s instinct. Looking upwards. And then downwards at the tree trunk I reverently said a prayer:

Gratitude to the rain at the source, to the lightning, and the passing clouds…

Gratitude to the early mist, to the earth, to darkness…

 

*

 

You were quiet in the late afternoon. Birds mingled their songs. Your forehead opened into an endless field of yellow flowers. Your feet spread wide to allow the flow of murmuring water. Your back upright – the caves in the cliffs – the light – boring deep. All beings are one, and where does one lead to? Appearing and disappearing in space is a great vase. Who is coming in a transparent drop of mist? The thunder resounding intensely. The fragile flower set forth in freedom…

 

*

 

Your mouth revealed a quiet garden. Bees gathered to their hive in your eyes. You looked up at the condensed drop of amber honey slowly flowing into a cup I wore, a garment shy of ironing and wore shoes without polish or shine. The garden was peaceful in Autumn. But from your shoulders Summer was descending. The azure up to the horizon blurred the low billboards. I could not prevent you sweating in the June sun. But the sweat softened the rock, the burning trail, and also the tree trunks.

 

*

 

We were radiant in the cover of darkness. Fused into the veins of wood, and the weavings of baskets, the light you find in filaments of electric bulb… We cleared the way and we celebrated one another. To become candlelight and clean water. To become fresh flowers for offerings in the worship of ancestors. The river flowed swiftly to rescue the burning forest. The sharp knife cut into sweet fruit. The separate rocks flew with the wind. We heard milk gather in each blade of grass, the eyes of ferocious animals cleared away darkness, the bitter drops flowed towards the gall, and cinders were buried under the furrows. We stretched ourselves to become other people, to be seeds saying farewell to the storage yard and the kitchen soot, farewell to baskets and jars… to crawl into the earth.

 

 

 

 

For My Recognition

 

 

You were in sound asleep and knew not

I was watching the raindrops

the sparse darkness outside the window

the foliage overbearing on my chest…

suddenly I saw the road

incline itself in the night.

 

Appearing and disappearing yesterday in your breath

a newly painted bulletin board

a peddler with her baskets, a wedding passing by

a dispersal of shift workers, some fish in gaping form

a visit of an artist with his newly tended beard…

 

The silent waterfalls were descending with might

the soles of the shoes were ready to burst

the wall opened into an emergency exit

it was drizzling with droplets or a flight of grasshoppers

the whole house hurled itself dizzily

surprised and exhausted at the meeting with dawn…

 

I pressed an imaginary phone number

to tell you everything from my dream.

 

 

 

 

Selection of a Scene

 

 

In a dream I lay down on the beach

with your arm as my pillow

 

you thought the sea in this place was eight meters deep

(I could read your mind)

with clouds and seagulls

 

I brought my dream downtown

at breakfast I saw myself as a Jew’s-ear

boiled in the broth

in a pot eight meters deep

 

Visiting a friend in a narrow alley

his house number plate looked like a Jew’s-ear

boiled in the broth pot

his voice echoed from a depth of eight meters

 

As I half-closed the door to prevent the cold

a vague warmth penetrated deeply

 

I saw the distance from the foot of the chair to the statue

the sound of woodcutters resounding as lightning

among alien faces in a soup eatery…

it was equivalent to the distance between clouds and the seagulls

an exquisite beauty above the depth of eight meters.

 

 

 

 

Youmeyoume

 

 

Morning at office desk. Opened the agenda to note down tasks to be done. Your hand came from behind the page to grip my pen firmly. A line had just been drawn with a trembling hand.

 

Hovering around like a fish, you said

      − Your room is too narrow.

      − But it is cozy.

 

Seeing your breasts in all spherical things. In the lampshade, the paperweight, the teapot and cups, the vacuum flask, the TV station, the wall clock, the ventilating fan… And you teach me how to breathe: Take a deep breath into your chest, and push everything down to your feet! You gave me new awareness.

 

The way of your limbs

Once the leaves flow to leaves

the moon rests immobile

The way is fixed

and raised with the horses’ hoofs.

You are the canopy for my resurrection

Your hair all shade and roots

the lofty tree trunk stands upright

ascending

in the imbalance of low-pressure tropical atmosphere

shaking

to rise up in body heat

pushing from our innermost earth

from the marrow where the concentrated spirit dwells

to protect sentient beings

distilled from you

extracted from you

I am

and I am not

 

Jumping madly from the height of waterfalls

The thundering of waterfalls, or the howl, the groaning, the voice…

Water foam tosses up and runs away

Together we reflect on the colours of a rainbow.

 

Going alone to the sea

Homesickness is tied to the hair roots

Your body flutters before the ocean.

 

Each face is embedded within another. A riddle opens up our imagination. You in an empty place, I blow into your toes, invading space, as I inflate your body. The breath begins such moments. Your feet stuck on my shoulders. Drops of sweat shine in darkness. Let our soft tongues tie us together…

 

My mouth still keeps the fragrance of fruit and tea you have taken. Cake is sweet with cream and cinnamon. I still remember. The chair so large. When your shoulders sprouted flowers, my lips light up the sacred lamp in the dark corner. The flower could only speak of a tiny part of the bosom of the large earth. The entrails of this earth tremble when the flower stands still.

 

Light has been torn up. In one morning. It is really pathetic when we see each other as the fish with protruding eyes. You throw reflections on me, of various strange flowers. Mental derangement is easily liable in an enigmatic world. No, we still have speech. Each word evocable, then appears as a truth. The evidence of truth upturns all conventional wisdom.

 

Go to the suburbs for a space of relax. Focus on one point against the blue background. Because we like a cloud flying while self-centering. Your breath suddenly rises up from grass roots. Last night there was a heavy rain here. Also tornados and soundless lightning flashes… Before that, you were waiting for me.

 

Love one another. Those are the rites to celebrate heaven and earth. My element is Metal and yours is Fire. Earth, Tree, and Water are all derived from Fire. Earth trembles. Water flows. Thousands of budding sprouts blossom from the body.

 

 

 

 

The Season of Plum Flowers

 

 

The forest of buds is waiting for your approach to blossom, a multitude of white flowers unfolding rapidly.

 

I am a tree of white plum in the dry and cold rain of Spring, and my flowers turn whiter and whiter with poignant missing.

 

The season of flowers is magnificently breathless. You should not be hesitant when you walk for fear of causing pain to the earth, even if fragile petals will fall down.

 

Mountains and hills pile up together to help the blossoming of flowers. Cold air and breeze are enveloping. I see a vision of a white horse, as it gently approaches you and lowers itself down.

 

Every time Spring comes, the roads and fields are jubilant, we love each other and the flowers are in bloom.

 

 

 

 

The Song of Harvest

 

 

Spreading quickly, overwhelming reclaimed virgin land

You drop one burst of wild flower after another

to whirl me up from the house with its small garden

 

The birds cut up immense space and leave lines of endless flight

 

My roots reach up to your verdant eyes

Every sprout sprays warmth to wet the bosom of earth

from the breathing that transforms the sky

from the empty sky that builds clouds up

 

The thatch eyes burn up the old crop

To change our vision and the vacant horizon

The earth accepts all burning cinders

The new season comes with self-confidence, grinding and wiping out all

The kiss is silent, radiating heat and boring into entrails of earth

touching underground veins swollen with old mysteries

The fertile earth fused with dawn offers up a face

with exuberant plants and trees in profusion

 

The seasons of resurrection are pregnant with ripe ears of paddy

The thunder bursts out in the palm seeds

The cycle of fresh alluvium embraces fibres of earth

You bow down and all of a sudden, the river rushes in.

 

 

 

 

Where the Sky Is Spacious

 

 

You blow in the warmly ardent season

Trees wither for lack of water not far from the river swollen in splendor

The fish grinds up the hook and upsets the order of time

I shrink up to fly into infinity

The tower raises multi-directional sensory organ

 

Your braided hair is glorious like a beaded open-air crown

and your skin resplendent as the back of the moon

sweet fruit and golden paddy resplendent as the back of the moon

the timely seeds stand up proudly

the thunder, lightning and tornado are self-confident,

but when my grandparents’ silhouettes are seen

through the perfumed vapour of cooked rice, I burst into tears

 

Overwhelming absorption and sudden revelation

are woven into horizon of clouds in every circular breath of hope

to trigger the drops of drizzle in the chest

and the leftover food preserved in memory

 

Truth makes the letters jump out and they cannot be withdrawn

we are all more self-confident when we wake up and see the symbol engulfed in the mouth of fire.

 

 

 

 

One’s Wish List

 

 

The bells ring out

in metamorphosis and being

the mountain top hides the contracting and stretching trail

the you of yesterday is unrecognizable

 

the horse is out of breath

dizziness due to an impression of grass

the bundle of tongues being cut-off, follow one another

piercing the heart's blood to fall on loose soil

growing into fresh hands behind our back

 

I fiercely plunge deeper

in wait for resurrection among soft hair

covering wild eyes

and go out relaxed

disdainful of the monument

suddenly erasing the things known

known

buried in the sun, in the fathomless night, in stagnant waters

erasing the plump body

with rubbing fingers

groaning clouds in flight

stretching the cricket’s chirping

water suddenly screams in delight through the abundant river mouth

the trees are jerking their canopy in disorder

the rising leaven in the pitcher's bottom

 

flows through my mouth

your soft body

a body of perfume or fresh grasses just sprouting

 

the right to one’s wish list

 

 

 

 

Spring

 

 

Many signs of spring appear

Heavy clouds. Peach flowers in bloom. Rotten driftwood.

Slippery roads…

I tell my children these things.

 

My child closes her fingers to make a long whistle

calling the train moving through my chest

My head is roaring

And my feet are shaking

the black wagons follow one another in hardship.

 

Good-bye Winter!

Good-bye Winter!

My children are debating about time!

Is it the moment the bright red flower falls unwittingly on water surface

or the time of the ascension of purified souls?

Is it when white clouds suddenly hover over warm hands

or when warmth is heard in each young bird’s voice?

 

 

 

 

The Flowers in Autumn

 

 

1.

 

It’s about to rain. The foliage, the veranda, and the little umbrella will not cover you enough. Everything is in turmoil. The passing truck throws dust over human faces. Leaves are falling in turns. The wind blows a tiny flower pecker bird against the hedge. The same wind opens up my coat into a sail.

 

The rain will bring the perfume of grapefruit flowers down to the ground. The road will become slippery. The dragonfly flutters its wings on the dim treetops. Views of lake and summit of the high tower are gradually hidden. The rain will break the space I have just installed.

 

The wall surface is still dry. The wind clears out the road in front. The ground remains cracked with wrinkles of thirst, spreading across the open air, palm’s crisscrossing.

 

Is it the first raindrops or your fingers touching the doorframe, after traversing the empty space that is still warm with sunlight?

 

2.

 

Kissing you when the rain falls

the soil resurrected in freshness

The seed germinates then leaves

 

You weave me into smooth grasses

the climbing flowering plants stretch their arms

to call the ocean’s opening of river mouths and lakes

 

The lamp oil and the small flame

the listening ear and distant thunder

cause the pen’s ink to run on white paper

high columns are set up on the floor

the mighty lion swallows the small animal

steel comes from the forge, mountain rock is baked into mortar

 

Calling green fruit to cling to branches until ripe

disregarding the bat sleeping upside down late evening

the wind rushes in whirling among the reeds

 

You and me are condensed into cool water

the rain of our kisses recreates the world.

 

3.

 

Drinking cold water. The perfume of roses sunlit clothes, and your hair’s perfume  lingering around the cup. You tell me to stay as bright as Summer forever. The ardent light pouring down changes what I see. The cup of fragrant tea, the inkpot is more concentrated. The embroidered picture, the table lamp are more withered. The button on my chest turns stiff, dry and curled. The sun sets in the cup of brandy. I close my eyes to see your image and white clouds drift back again. I dwell in the smell of orange and grapefruit flowers, in the coarse calling of birds. Darkness trembles as it makes contact with the breeze. I take a long look at yellow flowers, at wild chrysanthemums, at luffa flowers… a whole picture of deepening yellow. I take a long look at various hairstyles: floating, shoulder-length, curled, flattened, sprayed, ironed… yet I know nothing about hair fashion.

 

Drinking cold water cuts off every one of my thoughts like an interrogation, a pursuit, a red-handed catch.

 

I am a bub of water banyan, a perilla leaf, a mugwort plant, a senna flower, a bitter gourd fruit… Picked up by you to prepare in mid-Autumn.

 

4.

 

The hairpin you bought in the supermarket of make-believe ivory, agate, quartz…

 

I offer you another hairpin.

 

Mine was carved in wood, selected from a tall tree. Clouds gathered heavy in my hands, and your soft hair tightened on your shoulders. The gorgeous sunlight spread out on the red brick veranda.

 

I shut down the sunset, clouds, the hearth, the tree shadows…

 

Your hair knot was woven into a cozy nest in my chest. The young chicks hatched like so many twittering dawns.

 

5.

 

The coffee cup in the morning

the swirl of water in the river

the eye of a distant storm, of wind…

 

The eye of a bird-less silent tree's shadow

The eye of a car light's absentee owner

An alien look caught behind one's back

The eye of the Municipal Theater, of Three Bank Lake

The eye of the Edge Bridge

on King Lê Thánh Tông Street…

Someone's fallen hat turned into a pit on the street

The sky left vacant by passing clouds

 

Hey, the cup of brown coffee

Why did you leave the breeze to pour in condensed drops of mist?

The condensed early morning sun with its protective vapor

From the noise three steps away.

 

At the distance of three steps is another life

Even yesterday's stories are difficult to figure out

In uncertainty, people are contracting coughs

The clothing, the laugh, the handshake are altogether different

And other rivers raging and strike relentlessly on the banks…

 

I added sugar and ice cubes to the cup of coffee

Silent with you in all three steps.

 

6.

 

You were absorbed in reading

A book about love in the country of cherry blossoms

Where the trees are in the budding season

The stories about encounters between girls and boys at train stations…

in bars, on the beach, enjoying cold food

That happened only in the Sixties.

      − Love seems to be the same everywhere, in all time!

      − The paperweight now appears heavier. The computer is running on a large desk.

The vacuum flask I boiled yesterday is suddenly boiling in high spirits. Can we see infinity through a narrow door, across hidden walls, beyond a winter of vague and cold smoke, our hands extend as they stop water, obstruct the sound. Each insect’s voice, each splash of water from faraway nights is heard from the depths…

 

Please put a kiss on my chest and mark

where my heart is beating hard beneath the thin coat

in my breast pocket where once you tried to hide both hands

in such a moment my breast pocket grows extraordinarily large

so you can store all your favorites

or enter at leisure, comb your hair, and sleep soundly…

 

7.

 

The handbag you usually carried contained many things, several pads of paper, different kinds of pens, your make-up set, a mirror, a comb… The sun arranged into bright diamonds where you walked. The next day, the sun wove brighter diamonds to bring you here. Every day you changed your clothing style. Each garment had a specific accessory scarf, hand gloves, and lipstick… Every style fitted you. I dared not admire you for fear of being blamed as an everyday flatterer.

 

Maybe I am really an everyday flatterer.

 

The everyday was confused by the colors of your dress which have created a natural environment of fertility and diversity… Also the utensils, food, drink… The colors of your dress created my body.

 

All your nonsensical sentences helped the further weaving of sunlight into brighter diamonds. Only the handbag you carried was real. When will you open it up?

 

8.

 

Embracing you and listening to the music of water flowing over large mountain slopes, the petrified shells and mollusks woke and swallows’ nests on the cliffs were sparse… The trees and plants, the road, and even the pebbles in the surroundings showed their strangeness. They seemed separated from us, yesterday, since centuries ago. Or our silhouettes, and our spirits of innumerable previous existences, were nervously waiting for kisses.

 

Your breath had just opened the ancient space, verdant green in the early morning rain, linking the sky with the immense earth. The ruminants of bees and butterflies not yet created.

 

Your feet piled up each rock and built up mountains. Holding a tiny pebble I felt pity for the sun and rain, and did not know when could I return my debt to you!

 

You and me were the roads with so much foliage, many signboards, roundabouts, and junctions… Now we become one with edges of smooth grasses, and double compassionate steps, our landings, and rivers…

 

9.

 

The mirror of your chest reflected my sincerity. I remember the first time on the beach, I let my body immerse in the sand, and remained silent in the expanding immensity of infinity. A vague fear of an inadvertent storm, a sudden tsunami in the middle of dark night. Touching water, plunging into the depths, I wished for an unending cessation from breathing.

 

I also remember a dream of becoming a grown-up. The barefoot and naked children with corn silk bristling hair, chased me from the playground. I did not cry but stood by the tall people. I tried to speak in a loud voice to reach a girl hiding near the riverside… Then the rats fighting amongst themselves in the paddy mat enclosures, woke me. Rapid breath. But I still keep in mind the end of the dream… The magma gushed out in the distance. And the ardent horizon sank deep into infinite gentleness.

 

10.

 

Then it was Spring

yellow leaves turned green

 

Watching the leaves

standing among the leaves

I left you absent, by mistake, in my thoughts.

 

The vacancy later recognized

caused the raining down of Summer storms

with your name written by lightning across the sky…

 

Causing a strange bird to sing in the empty garden

the herd of goats to gnaw yellow withered grasses

the crabs to withdraw from the sea in ebbing tides

and the oars to fall along and across in water…

 

The breeze followed your digital phone message

your fingers drove each breath among the trees

the thin blanket became cold in the early morning

oh, preserved apricots, sour tamarinds, and piquant grapefruit…

 

Spring came late this year

136… 123… 97 days still remained.

 

11.

 

In periods when beehives were divided

I remember several times I made you cry

and your teardrops burst out on your breasts

 

Holding your hand, I said:

The faint sunlight entered the door recess

some grains of dust brightened and rapidly flew by …

The pale young chick on the high nest

showed its feathers deep under its soft skin…

So many sharp thorns on the innocent ground!

 

Looking at each other, I was told:

The lotus calices were bewildered at season's end…

the crimson food trays… the uneven chopsticks…

the deep caves receptive to moonlight…

the leftovers became antiques…

the dry firewood…in unfinished burning…

 

Did the swarm of bees fly away

or did you cry inadvertently?

 

You genuinely and serenely looked at me

No, two halves of a fruit, two bright candle lights?

two suns rising from the same horizon?

two electric switches, two tree stumps recently cut?

two crevices, two mute speakers?

two signs of prohibition, two bags of honeybees?

two seeds with cotyledons just sprouted?

two numbers asking me to make an addition?

two fallen leaves, two unfinished burnings?

 

12.

 

You could not share your private hurt

oh, the drop of water, falls to earth

and asks the shade to shelter sharp pain in the roots

 

Not seeing me

your eyelids were trembling…

The pebble touched the lake bottom

but the ripples of water were spreading forever…

 

You spoke about the pebble

tossed towards the sky in negligence

I kept silent and listened to the lake…

 

… with a boat moored to the stony bank

moving up and down with the waves by itself through the night…

 

… a bittern’s cry was not melting into water

the rising sun was wearily searching in mist…

 

… someone’s voice was striking at dawn

waiting for daybreak to water the plants…

 

13.

 

Leaving the city

you followed me to the countryside

The hearth, the riverbank entered your sleep

 

Memory was resurrected truly oddly

The hearth…

The riverbank…

hovered around the bamboo shoulder pole and baskets in a dream

and was only in balance during heavy rain…

 

When the riverbank opened endlessly

clusters of water hyacinths followed the flood to completely cover the river's surface

until they suffocated, causing the early arrival of evening

shrimps and fish hanging noisily across the sky…

The hearth flickered with its tiny fire

mother’s eyes looked at you from distant streets…

let the paddy agonize among thatches

and explode like rain with the contact of embers…

 

The hearth lit up and hurried the early morning dream

you were by yourself, busy with wet firewood

and bitter smoke got in your eyes…

The riverbank appeared muddy and eroded

with exhausted thorny grasses, galingale roots, and couch grasses…

a surprised fish flapping in soggy mud…

 

A fat duck, a buffalo with a bruised nose

A dog with white patches, fireflies, a black cat!

I remember living with you in steady rain and torrid sun

needles with thread ends, the bamboo pole and baskets were in decline…

 

14.

 

The table lamp shone on your dress. A face partly appeared in the distance. Tiny flowers left the flap of the tunic cold, to return to dike slopes, hilltops, fields…

 

The early wind of the season clung to me, from the horizon fragrant with honey grasses, noisy with bees in flight, and with the murmurings of water…

 

When cold beer flowed into the arteries, in sunset's afterglow, there appeared lamp lights and tiny flowers. The alley receded deep into infinity. Some guys at the next table were already drunk, their hesitant laughter and talking echoed from horses' backs. Bowls and chopsticks were in disorder; wild grasses encircled the house. Empty glasses hit one another noisily. The evening afterglow flew fast over the pages of the inadvertently closed book.

 

The extreme lightness of the wind pushed me into darkness.

 

15.

 

Grasses grow together

to continue the dream's of earth

with grasses on the backs, with grasses on the limbs

 

No need for thunder, lightning, or gathering of clouds

we rain on one another the rain of green grasses

and the sun spreads gold on the earth surface

 

The rain of green makes our eyes overflow to the treetops

we weave into one another until out of breath… dumb… suffocated…

 

Clouds wear shoes and sandals, jewels

and the clothing we have just stripped off flows rapidly

The bodies shine up in the perfume of grasses

in wild chrysanthemums on dike slopes lighting up innumerable tiny candlesticks

The dragonfly needle sticks its legs to a coarse rock

protecting every ferns' resurrection

Black ants are mingled into sand and gravel

Insects now stay motionless behind foliage

The flock of brown sparrows that cannot find perching branches

fly up in fright and break out of the empty sky

Dry leaves falling in drafts

Strike up joyful chimes of bells.

 

Our voices are underground veins gnawing pangs of earth

offering to the horizon the warmth of mighty forests

 

16.

 

Eat this juicy dish, drink this cup of tea. Give you the grain of salt, the towel, the sauce. With soy sauce, eggplants, string beans and perfumed rice too. As I was leaving, you told me to be steady in eating and sleep, to take another spoonful for your own sake. I was a king crab swimming around a table laden with food. According to the rites of the species, before eating I must raise the food as an offering. Always remembering you are on my back, the queen crab covering the entire earth. You are a slow-flying cloud, a fan-shaped dawn, a bristling lioness, a quick branch-hopping squirrel. The wind blows and entwines my legs. The tender rain sieves in a cool manner… I am piggybacking the sky with my steady legs. The seedlings find sunlight under my back. The children’s laughter unties the beads. The inchworm climbs round and round yellow leaf stems. The red ixora flowers blossom early at the entrance of the alley… Monsoon… Monsoon… And water flows, flows on!

 

At times you forgot my advice. But it has become my instinct, I continue swimming and raising food on high.

 

17.

 

You and me practiced talking

Spreading our hands

 

The sun penetrated the dense jungle

The lines on our palms entwined as rattan stems

the trail was desolate with entangled flowery climbers

primitive scars became rosy in layers of brown earth

 

You said: Today it’s cold

 

Was I confused by the drizzle and fluttering fire

between warm breath and ringing bells?

 

I held in my palm a burning coal

penetrated by a sharp fish-hook

lying on each acute needle

hurriedly taking in a mouthful of boiling water

 

And you and me…

 

All concepts are completely meaningless

when our lips look for one another in haste

the ink marks appear distinctly

beginning with the horse cart

and the sunset has just been loosened from the horizon

and good wine giving warmth to our breasts

 

18.

 

Tearing the darkness of the night to look deep into the open horizon

The bloodstained belfries give a new greenness to hurried prayers

The furrows have been upturned

to show their fertility after so many years remaining hidden treasures

 

The river is murmuring

The waterfalls descend from high mounts

New sunlight, and mist

And so close to raindrops

 

The breathing bursts out the hard-core of seeds you have just cast out

The body is strung high, and expanded

 

You rely on me to form a barrage against the tides

a line of trees against erosion by storms

 

19.

 

Wild horses galloped on the prairie

pulling clouds into winds, thunder and lightning

 

Water coming from the depths burst forth on the ground

forming ponds, and large lakes

swiftly flowing into springs, rivers, and bodies

surging in my chest, and up to the top of my hair

 

Turning me into a torch, a striking match, a candlestick…

 

The burning lips in ardent areas

The eyes with wild veins

explode each lonely fruit

every simple letter

the last empty fords

the far-away bird cries

the dugouts

and the cut-off bisexual flowers dangling…

 

Shouting loud until death

Keeping silent until death for a resurrection of the world

 

The horses tossed their manes…

Without being seen.

Neighing without being heard

In the high sky one by one a green blade of grass is raised.

 

20.

 

Close to you I heard the moon’s rising

sitting in a bell of light

your coat becomes mine

your hair becomes mine

your shoulders become mine

your breath becomes mine

your hands become mine…

 

Close to you the rain is flying

Under our feet the grasses are mending the world

your river refreshes the fields

your long legs incline the earth

your chest rises to the zenith

your breath blows away banks and dikes

your lips grind me into powder

 

Close to you I eat, drink, speak, and laugh at ease

I sleep soundly, am free… and live…

to bury my bones and marrow into your body

to wriggle and be reincarnated into another life

to saw off, turn upside down, drink up

to explode, break stone into lime

to cleave the wood with an axe…

 

21.

 

Enchanted, suffocated

I am immersed in the depths

 

Pouring upon me the wine of wines

the water of waters and waves of waves

the rapid breathing all night long

the hammerings of metal

the buoy is submerged with the high-strung line

 

My skin and flesh are safe

all muscles are stretched out, relaxed

up and down as a fetus

with some hair in its mouth

 

– Is this the bottom?

– Yes, but there are still further depths

 

22.

 

the hot bowl of soup

burned my lips, vulnerable

 

the smell of fresh scallion, spices, herbs

the sweet broth, with mushrooms…

 

grateful to you

let me be a puppy, a sucking calf

a newly hatched chick

and listen to

 

the warm egg rolling into the nest

the river mouth overfilled at moonrise

the new seed falling into cozy ground

and the flock of birds looking for mating on high…

 

23.

 

I was lying prone on the ground and calling into the deep caves. Saying that the river is flowing up to the forest, carrying the sun just melted in early morning, and also my voice on the ford. Saying that the sea can recognize itself and challenge me to plunge into its depths. Over there the tree is blossoming more quickly in darkness. A cloud, and the bird fly without a pausing point. The leaf turns yellow, and falls even at a light touch or without one. Each falling leaf causes throbbing in my chest. The earth is silent by itself. Even in a moment of close contact to the earth one can feel out of breath because of all kinds of sounds.

 

24.

 

The earth is quiet the hills up and down in immense space evoke your soft back in movement through foliage overpassing the line of newly-planted trees with their wet trunks your soft advancing with naked feet narrow waist I look with my mind for knowledge of negligently turning one’s back the hair’s breath opening their eyes of understanding don’t ask don’t hear flying high lightly to get entangled with birds the salvo of dum-dum bullets sweetly falling who knows how to speak in a frenzy the unconscious becomes little and plunges deep into the body without waves ecstatic in effortless balance dropping into my body to form a mountain peak to venerate the ground looking upwards to your face condensing transparent space waking to be a hot piece of iron in the midst of nature the spring flows the fruit has just fallen bursting on the rock regretful of not drinking up all fragrance don’t overflow onto myriad things but be connected to the end of the placenta to nourish me from endless times to answer when called to suffer from violent movements to other beings and to be harmonious in light touch with the sublime.

 

25.

 

kite flying in childhood round swollen nipples deep mouthful of treetops trembling spider legs nonchalantly hanging a net on leaves of grass safety measure of high pressure on ammo powder without fear of explosion silent understanding your look of compassion downwards the murmurings of trees closely hold grips on birds’ voices quietly taking shelter in rain the warm sunlight darts deep into fresh grasses in trembling at the turning of seasons without a change of new dress both in fever and running into an orchard laden with fruits touching the eyes’ corners and the lips everywhere is accumulated with electricity pick something up and you are shocked and anesthetized, sweated to ecstasy your hands shut locked and your legs opened large to the horizon water falling upon you as a flood in a daze cleaning all ignorance and reactivating your memory like a wild beast fallen into a trap a fish escaping from the net and struggling in a lake with water abundant in your month with only your hair fluttering backwards you lie on your back to feel covered with fertile silt and let branches sprout from your body you hear from afar people congratulate the plump baby in cozy swaddling diapers you lovingly touch your fingers on my back and make me cry.

 

26.

 

burning charcoal baked the fish into a curled shape the rice pancake swelled and coiled back the tongues of fire climbed and filled up space objects and cells resurrected in pristine forms drawing fallen leaves upon the tree causing the dispersal of microcircuits the ink was smeared on the hands the bones were embraced and cooked in simmer the tree trunk ascended straightly overcoming the narrow wall and clasping the lofty sky burying its roots into the depths greening the earth enlightening every popular and dirty saying transmitting flame to ten generation the poisoned arrow of enthusiasm carrying one another to pay respects to ancestors joyfully performing the rites of worship the bugle was resounding the alarm clock was ringing joyful daybreak offering of dresses pouring of wine to the ground fanatically hitting the wild beast and leaving on the skin wreaths of strange grasses the moment of pregnancy drenched with blood and pus lying back on glowing cinders and warm ashes not hearing one sentence of unreason but only drinking water full of significance in holding.

 

27.

 

The low-flying cloud radiated light without regard for sunrise or sunset. Behind that cloud so many mysteries were kept, projects of travel, the blue scarf I wanted to offer you had a fine line… You handed me a cup of hot tea. I closed my eyes and nodded. And at the same I figured out the fertile land expanding forever. The plump buffaloes drenched in sweat and in heat swiftly pulled the shining plough and upturned one furrow after another. The animals gathered joyfully in the great forest, ringing bells endlessly on their flesh and skin. The approaching wind was dreaming among trees. Only the high branches were fluttering. The stems of leaves clung to me at each tender breath, at the heels, the earlobes, the hair… Exhaling a pure perfume, you said: we have just been born again under a cloud in flight.

 

 

 

 

Biography of Nguyễn Tiến Văn:

 

Nguyễn Tiến Văn was born in Hà Nội in 1939. He lived in South Vietnam from 1954 to 1975, where he worked as a translator, editor, and publisher. Between 1975 to 1985 he sold books from a bookstall in an outdoor open market.

He left Vietnam in 1985. From 1985-1987 he became a refugee in the UNHCR camp of Pulau Bidong, Malaysia. Nguyễn Tiến Văn left the refugee camp in 1987 and was repatriated to Canada. For the next 18 years, he lived and worked in the city of Toronto.

Since 2005, Nguyễn Tiến Văn has been living in Saigon where he currently works as a translator and editor. He has translated works by traditional and contemporary Vietnamese poets such as Inrasara, Cát Du, Trang Thế Hi and Mai Văn Phấn, from Vietnamese into the English language.

 

 

 

 

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.




Biography of Mai Văn Phấn:


Vietnamese poet Mai Văn Phấn was born 1955 in Ninh Bình, Red River Delta in North Vietnam. Currently, he is living and writing poems in Hải Phòng city. He has won several national literary awards of Vietnam. He has published 24 poetry books and 1 book "Critiques–Essays", 10 poetry books of those are published and released in foreign countries.

 

• “Giọt nắng” (“Drops of Sunlight”. Poetry book. Hải Phòng Union of Literature and Arts Associations, 1992);

• “Gọi xanh” (“Calling to the Blue”. Poetry book. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 1995);

• “Cầu nguyện ban mai” (“Prayers to Dawn”. Poetry book. Hải Phòng Publishing House, 1997);

• “Nghi lễ nhận tên” (“Ritual of Naming”. Poetry book. Hải Phòng Publishing House, 1999);

• “Người cùng thời” (“People of the Era”, Hải Phòng Publishing House, 1999);

• “Vách nước” (“Water Wall”. Poetry book. Hải Phòng Publishing House, 2003);

• “Hôm sau” (“The Day After”. Poetry book. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2009);

• “và đột nhiên gió thổi” (“and Suddenly the Wind Blows”. Poetry book. Literature Publishing House, 2009);

• “Bầu trời không mái che” (Vietnamese-only version of “Firmament Without Roof Cover". Poetry book. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2010);

• “Thơ tuyển Mai Văn Phấn” (Mai Văn Phấn: Selected Poems - Essays and the Interviews, Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2011);

• “hoa giấu mặt” (“hidden-face Flower”. Poetry book. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2012);

• “Bầu trời không mái che / Firmament Without Roof Cover” (bilingual 2nd edition. Poetry book. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2012);

• “Vừa sinh ra ở đó” (“Just Born There”. Poetry book. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2013);

• “Những hạt giống của đêm và ngày / Seeds of Night and Day” (bilingual Vietnamese-English. Poetry book. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2013);

• “A Ciel Ouvert / Firmament Without Roof Cover” (bilingual Vietnamese-French. Poetry book. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2014);

• “Buông tay cho trời rạng / Out of the Dark” (bilingual Vietnamese-English. Poetry book. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2013);

• “Ra vườn chùa xem cắt cỏ / Grass Cutting in a Temple Garden” (bilingual Vietnamese-English. Poetry book. Page Addie Press of United Kingdom Australia, 2014);

• “Zanore në vesë / Vowels in The Dew” (Poetry book. BOTIMET M&B, Albania, 2014);

• “บุษบาซ่อนหน้า / hidden face flower / hoa giấu mặt” (Poetry book. Artist's House, Thailand, 2014);

• “Yên Tử Dağının Çiçeği” (“The Flower of Mount Yên Tử”. Poetry book. ŞİİRDEN YAYINCILIK, Turkey, 2015);

• "The Selected Poems of Mai Văn Phấn" (Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2015);

• “thả” (“Letting Go”. Poetry book. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2015);

• “आलाप प्रतिलाप” (“Echo of the Aalap”. Poetry book. Publishing House of Kritya, India, 2016);

• “Không gian khác” (“Another Dimension”. Critiques–Essays. Publishing House of The Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2016);

• “Два крыла / Đôi cánh” (“Two Wings”. Bilingual Vietnamese-Russian. Poetry book. “Нонпарелъ” – Publishing House of Мoscow, 2016);...

 

Poems of Mai Văn Phấn are translated into 22 languages, including: English, French, Russian, Spanish, German, Swedish, Albanian, Serbian, Turkish, Uzbek, Kazakh, Slovak, Rumanian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese,  Hindi (India), Bengali (India), Korean, Indonesian, Thai, Nepalese.

 

Simultaneously on the book distribution network of Amazon, thecollections “Firmament Without Roof Cover”, “Seeds of Night and Day”, “Out Of The Dark”, “Grass Cutting in a Temple Garden”, “A Ciel Ouvert” waspublished and exclusively released in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia and European countries by Page Addie Press of the UK.

 

December 2012, the English collection titled “Firmament without Roof Cover” became one of the 100 best-selling poetry books of Amazon.

 

June 2014, the three collections in Vietnamese and English titled “Ra vườn chùa xem cắt cỏ” (“Grass Cutting in a Temple Garden”) and “Những hạt giống của đêm và ngày / Seeds of Nights and Day” as well as his Vietnamese-French collection titled “Bầu trời không mái che” (“A Ciel Ouvert/ Firmament without Roof Cover”) were among the top ten of the 100 best-selling poetry collections from Asia on Amazon.

 

Poems of Mai Văn Phấn were introduced in newspapers and magazines of Sweden, New Zealand, the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, India, Albania, Turkey, South Korea, Hongkong, Indonesia and Thailand, etc.



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