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

Mai Văn Phấn

Translated from Vietnamese by Pornpen Hantrakool

Edited by Susan Blanshard









Thai version: “บุษบาซ่อนหน้า"
Vietnamese version: "hoa giấu mặt”




ศาสตาจารย์ กวีนักแปล พรเพ็ญ ฮั่นตระกูล

Professor - Poet Pornpen Hantrakool

Poet Susan Blanshard



A Glance

A small pond beside a foothill
A hill’s peak




A Sleeping Spider


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




To Separate

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




To Strike a Gong

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




A Bow Speaks

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



Erecting a New Year Pole

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




To Restart

A harvested field
A stork swoops down
An unkempt dawn




A Flower

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




Pomelo Flower

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




Fruitful Autumn

Peeling a persimmon
Just ripened
Afraid someone will ring the bell


Cold Weather

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




Time to Chant a Prayer

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




A Mountain Summit

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




End of a Day

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




Through the Teeth of a Rake

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





In Mid Winter

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




At Dawn

A water spider
In the middle of a lotus flower


To Be Aware

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




Sweet Fruit

Extruded roots
Point at the sky
A little stem




Moon Night

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




A Lake Surface

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




The Moon Rises

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




A New Day

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




Ripe Fruit

Who bakes
In the trunk of a tree
By another flame




A Ringing Bell

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




Two Seasons

I stand between
A cicada’s chirp and
A chrysanthemum




Return to the Village

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




Night Storm

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




Making a Nest

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




At Dusk

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




Searching for a Flower

Following a fragrance
Around mountains
Some stony slopes are found





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





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




A Meadow Flower


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



An Eagle

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




Pure Light of Early Morning

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




A Silence

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




Previous Life

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




The Encounter

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





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




Mixing Colors

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




Missing You

A full glass of water
I drink
A brimful of light




Advice for You

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




A Moment

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




An Image of a Spotted Deer

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




A Tale of Fireflies

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




A Heavenly Tree

We seek each other
Hardworking, pulling earth on our own




A Gentle Breath

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





As Wood Speaks

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




A Split Second(*)

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


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

Buddhist concept.





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




Ancestors Death Anniversary Day


A fish swims through
The offering of food disintegrating





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




Going Up to Đồng(*) Temple

Rising wind
Raising each Buddhist monk
Up in line

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



Burning Votive Paper

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




Grave Visiting Festival

Grandmother longs to meet me
Some of the dead
Stop her





An Early Morning in Mother’s Native Village

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





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




A Well

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




An Essence of Buddhism

A heron
Fumbling into the sound of a wooden fish




In a Bramble Bush

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




A Witness

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




A Minotaur

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




Day and Night

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



Thinking in the Rain

The cloud that fascinated me before
Is soaking me now




A Secret

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




So It Is

A wind
Blows calmly
Between an animal and a trap




A Sorcerer

Knocking over the potion
The flap of spell


To Go Fishing

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




A Bird’s Cry

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





A lotus petal
Falls down gently
Into a muddy pond




Many People Behold

A bulldozer
Covers a sprout




Enter Into Dusk

Trampling the embers of fire
Feeling blue and joy confusion





A Joke

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




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




The Ebb

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




Let’s Keep Silent

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




Ripe Rice

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





A fish
In the midst of a sea current
Turns slimy




Yin Yang

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




Searching for a Way

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





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




Life is Full of Danger

Young and vulnerable
Where is your mother?





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




Invisible Fishhook

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




In the Wood

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





An old rat
Going around a trap
Until the springs collapse





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




Flowers at the Temple Entrance

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





A Dream of Scales

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




Paradise Fish


Swimming, belly up
Still gasping
Swept away by a river





A Symbolic Picture


A fish nailed up
Tail and head
The endless sea





Cold, Tomorrow Will Be


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





In the Midst of a Market


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





Rowing on the River Nhật Lệ(*)


A paddle moves me
Rowing back
On the sunny river


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



Phong Nha Cave(*)


A stalagmite arm
Reaches out
Weighing heavily on my shoulders


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



The Stony Plain of Nhay(*)


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


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



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


Entering heaven
Softer grasses
Your fingers taper off


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





Return to the Age of Bàu Tró(*)


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


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



Angle of Vision


A garden’s corner

Falling water, pouring on a boulder

Evening twilight, leaving quickly


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

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

On a thorn
The sun shoots
A dewdrop

Braiding a cage
Of sky
Keeping a bird

Abundant trees
Rely on their dreams
To flower

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

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

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

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

Rain pours down
On the flamboyant
To end the fire

Only one step moves forward
Summer now
Autumn will conclude

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

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

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

Wave after wave
Washing the legs of
A little crab

The first morning of spring
Being permissive
Not predictable

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


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

The spring season is wondrous
The caterpillars
Lie motionless

A trap
A beast
In between is a haze

A swaying tree
Thinks that a nightingale
Has made it drunk

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

In an absent moment
Two flowers
Inject aroma into each other

Turbid water
Fish plunges into fish
Spring rain

Velvet and white
A half remaining petal
No smell of pests

The sound of a thunderbolt
Shakes a lily

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

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

Withered grasses
Barren lands
The world nearby

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

A flower
Has dropped down under the sun
A complete ceremony

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

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

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

A tailorbird
Looked at my face
Then soared away

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

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

Rain soaks both
The young banana sprout and
The caterpillar

A slight wind
A bird on a roof

Requiem for a dead soul
A faint bell ringing

Sounds like the color of young grass

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

The moon
Its light brightening
The withered grasses

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

A bird with numb legs
Soaring at dawn

In a deep forest
A frog
Gapes at me

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

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

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

Seeing a lotus leaf withered
Planting out paddy fields
Feeding birds

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

Hiding beneath a white flower of temple tree
Washing the earth

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

Kissing you
The trumpeting sound doubles
Go slowly

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

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

A spring morning
A shadow of an old tree
A dwarf

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

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

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

A worm
Eating a ripe fruit
A man in the night

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

Getting lost in a foreign land
Not knowing what to take

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

In a meeting
A bluebottle
Suddenly, raising its voice

While taking a bath
News is heard
The world has changed

New Year’s Eve
The Earth
An illuminating candle

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

A cloud
Covering the moon
Closing an eye

A sword
Becoming tempered by water

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

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

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

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

A cockroach
Dares not creep through
A rusty sword


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

Looking up
To greet the spring rain
Getting a drop sometimes

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

Grass on the tomb of father
Seems planted
In another time

A maiden, reciting a Buddhist scripture
A centipede
Slinking away

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

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

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

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

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

The same key
Unable to unlock

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

An evening
A rat and I
Rush across a road

A wind blows
Into a cricket’s hole

A night
Falling steadily
A dead flower, no more scent

Joining a water’s surface
A fish’s story

Holding your hand
A twig filled with flowers
Frail and pale

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

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

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

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

Of all the rainfall
Only a few drops
Drop straight down

Forgetting to bring wings
Still, I
Can fly

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





Biography of Pornpen Hantrakool


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





Biography of Susan Blanshard


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





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