FIRMAMENT WITHOUT ROOF COVER (Collected Poems) - Mai Văn Phấn. Translated from Vietnamese by Trần Nghi Hoàng. Edited by Frederick Turner
Mai Văn Phấn
from Vietnamese by Trần Nghi
Edited by Frederick
Page Addie Press of the UK, 2012.
Publishing House of the Vietnam Writer’s Association, 2012.
FIRMAMENT WITHOUT ROOF COVER
Vietnamese version: Bầu trời không mái che
Translator - Poet Trần Nghi Hoàng
Professor - Poet Frederick Turner
Mother nature caressing child as the
Sound passing from bough
to bough, the howling
Skin and flesh of the woman
Our love child spreading
deep into the dark
Entering into the dark
Skin and flesh erect
lift the layered clouds for us
To make a watershed of
rain over the sources of rivers
A bough quivers on the
Where a bird suddenly
Only I can see that
small bird so far away from the road
Far away from the
garden, from the other flocks of birds
I quietly pass
through the corona at the bottom of the water
And look up at the sky
with open wings
Rising to the top of the
tree where the bird’s beak
Bends down to feed into
the mouths of its fledglings
Each sip of wind
Sound of chipped grain in the chest
The bare ground and green fruit
The dense-leaved canopy of the
Newborn child on the ground
Swim across the river the tadpole’s
Learning to flaps its wings, fanning
the wind into the nest’s warm bowel
Sprouts the cotyledon leaves, flies
Steam rises by the river-wharf
Space condenses the confusion of
Smoke steams up high
I realize I am swimming in a sea
Not mist but rain
The tall tower glittering
Breathing, muscles firm, the leaf
The dead return, suddenly, in the
I shudder at a shoreline
The water surface choking where
there are no breaking waves
A sip of cool water drifting
Suddenly remembers the high tide
season submerging the cricket’s cave
Burble sound of bubbles gushing up
So that I realize where the cave
Place child on the ground
The riverbed has enough pain to tear
off the body of night
Nature glossy wet
The trunk of trees disintegration
turns into splinters
Water swift flowing
I burst into tears to sweep away the
Sound of the heron’s hoarseness
The ashes flashing up
Pick up a pebble to draw on the
The young calf bewildered
A clear outline as the calf bent
down to graze
Another direction draws an extra eye
The eye of wild animals or eye of
Write the words on the remaining
The voice very close
Under the light of dawn you must
Yin Yang bowl of water
While crawling over bowl of twilight
Pull the body gradually out of the
I sip the dewdrops
The ghastly shell heaped up high
Was out of reach
Groups of people helping each other
End of dawn.
The shade of trees bursting out
Images on the map are torn off?
Or the half-bat half-mouse corpse?
I was so frightened, weaving the
Set booby-traps around myself
Sharpening the knife
Preparing a matchbox
As close to the horizon
The drifting darkness was terrible
Faster than emotion
I keep accumulating anxiety, the
Until the blackness of night was
I chased small prey
Threw myself upon the wave’s crest,
then lost direction
The low tide
In the dream near morning
My bones painful
The tail and dorsal fin frostbitten
There is a hand threading the
Dragging me slowly on the ground
They stopped to shelter from the
Suddenly release me
Near the foot of waves
I was grateful the rain
The loud thunder and cool wind.
Father recently tried to
get up after being bedridden, staggering out the door, he fell into a square
block of light
He tried to point his
finger, then said: “That green beetle on a leaf canopy, father sees it for the
I tell these
unintentional stories about the time father was in a coma. A story of the large
cloud that flew slowly through our home. The deep wells rising steam up to the
window. One story about the song of the crypsirina temia bird, makes everyone
look at the bowl of drugs.
The body of father is
like shallow rivers, dry wood, and the empty paddy grain
The raceme of weighty
fruits, swaying in the strong wind
Father suddenly whispering:
Please help father go to rest
Sound of dried leaves
sliding off the roof makes father and I shed tears together.
The universe lays the black coat
Only eyes open to pray
Mumbling I still thought
... white hand black blood white
tongue black tears white back black helix curl of white hair black sweat
The black spilt on everything will
Let’s pray to save the people of
Look in any direction
Like learning to focus on the
Learning to separate the colors
To spell the letters
crossroad of white
surface, the seas surface white
man, a chair, the woman in white
inspector, the farmer in white...
The mouth reads aloud,
the mind still holds sundry thoughts
black tears white back black helix curl of white hair…
Curled up I sleep in cold wind
Dream to be a fetus
The navel-string connects to the
Fly above canopy of the trees
The eyes with a look, make the sound
of sobbing… blue
Every tiny bud of limbs
Springing lightly in the body of Him
I wake up
That place starts on the road
The colt unsteady standing up
The flock of insects crawling out of
The tiny shrimp blasting off the
throat of water.
drum gong and eight ornaments
opens the festival of imperial court
sing and dance to heaven
the great merit of four palaces
opens the mind of a disciple
tolerant eyes look
the quiet weather
the special envoy giving out grace
sincerity respectfully kowtow
four gods flanking the lady god
garb and turban of sorceress are
brocade and flower embroidery.
come and go refreshed
moving between heaven and earth
powdery cheeks and ruby lips
rhythm of bamboo beating and rhythm
string of coins
sacred dragon hovering
five great mandarins’
the hand swaying
high talent deep virtue
the flame glittering
loving mason bee
silkworm spits out the silk cord
garb and scarf flapping
wind coming back to the riverbed
cassaba melon pyriform melon
fragrance of lotus and areca
boys and girls entering the region
prepare the sedge mat, prepare the
as flower, as butterfly
faces glowing with pleasure
as the ground is to the sky
grass and trees in good verdant
raining fast and violently
The Rock Inside Stream Bed
Be silent for water is flowing
Swift, deep, unending, icy cold over
Is there the spring?
Festoon climbing the trail
Voice of birds resounding down
Shadows of trees tremble on the
rock, shade or sun--
How can the colors of wildflowers be
The stone closes its eyes to let the
water sweep over.
Languors’ with ashen thighs(2)
Cause the tree-shadows again to move
Gentle drizzling rain disordered
Creeping into the deepest crevices.
Clouds stop where the clouds are...
The fragrant odor of ripe guava
seeps through the forest
A porcupine ruffles its quills, goes
Above all in this moment
Let’s stay where you are
On the jagged rock
Your dripping body was in pain.
Wide open. Tenderly drop by drop
With passionate warmth
Drops of sunshine flow into you
In a radiant tide, the season
The bee cuts its flight
The wind goes straight up
The tall tree rises up to my shadow.
The dove is fully fledged.
On dewy nights the insects waken.
The straw mushrooms open their eyes
And cover the young with green.
A bulbul with white spots and a red
Sings on the towering tree:
Tee-whit… whit… tee-woo...
Quickly I draw a cage of thought
bird will fly away.
Just when I finished the drawing he
I hugged the sunny frame, the windy
As the green bough chased after him.
Of his disappearance without a
trace, I thought
Later the bulbul will be back to
The ripe red fruit.
Every drop of water
Is my purity
Tee-whit… whit… tee-woo...
The bird needn’t fly back again--
I hear birdsong now, quite clearly.
Autumn returns in shy
Vague mist upon green rice.
That dress, that scarf, as smooth as
silk, the skin, the flesh...
The northeast wind is rising up to
Rhythm of pounding Cốm,
bustling season of the sticky rice:
Baskets slowly sieving out the husk.
Fragrant grapefruit moistens the
Pureness the inflorescences ohmantus
Between heaven and earth the lotus
tuber after rain
Tormented by a deep
longing at each tightening circling roll.
The green lotus leaves are giving
succor to you and me,
Over-ripening the horizon clouds of
To nights of making love in lamplit
Persimmons drenched with the
fragrance of flawless Cốm.
Oh Buffalo Calf!
Steam early in morning, garden deep
Rising high to each edge of silky
Smoother than layers of fuzz
Buffalo-calf looks for his mother
Respires into clouds, the sounds of
rice fields, trees budding
Knocking of hooves on the ground
The round ball bouncing up
Mole - cricket, mantis
throwing the pair of sturdily built pincers
The early sunshine illuminates the
body of buffalo-calf
Spreading out the caressing eyes
Interchange of seasons vault of
green leaves stretches tight
Hides underneath the bridge, waiting
I run after my shadow to roll it
Feet touch the grass jumping up
That leaf falling
The ground will sink down
Resounding the bell dispels dark
Sun will be hot and dry
The northeast wind trembles into a
New books fresh as infant breath
Sweet of sugarcane overflowing at
The patient worms plaiting shiny
streaks of ovum around the base of century-old tree
The young calf touching his soft
tongue on grass blades
That leaf falls
Don’t know anybody lucky to come
Moments fall back.
Crawling on sharp tops of the rock
Body of wind scratches
Blood of wind is rain
Sunshine drips down
Mountains roll the kiss up high
Gray clouds cast into black
Mountains open wide their arms,
trampling feet into ground
Crushing into fragments
Tears the body of wind into pieces
The starlight falling
Morning bursting out
Up to the top of slope in a flash
Open eyes look down
The kisses heaped higher
The frenzied wind rolls up on
Finding your mouth to sow
Wind clinging to tender limbs of
Plunge down to the abyss
Rot the bowels of hills and
Chest of wind drifting
Playing on the ground
The shell cracked flash
Spring overflows the grain mouth
Waiting to sprout the cotyledons
Wind will carry the ground away.
Shut tight the door the more wind
Things suddenly remembered, tighten
in my chest
The eye of wind swept me into you
Turning quickly round and round
Swiftly passing a bridge
My body was bent by the wind
Hung like a wet towel across the
Dripping down into a swift-flowing
Remembering how the train cuts
through a body of wind
Columns of smoke overturn and siren
sounds disappear in an instant
My breath is constrained through the
The pressure like an eagle wings
Raising fragile dragonfly wings
Cavalier on the wind’s crest
Outside the vault of leaf disorder
Torn to satisfy the frenzied
This inhibition of lust.
After rain the trees is a slim
Smooth green two-sides of the leaf
A leaf’s hand always soft
Sound of Bách Thanh bird tossing the
Tightens against me with pomelo and
root of benjamin fig
Mallow, lavender, geranium...
The garb of autumn most gentle
You shut your eyes, the eyes that
I stepped upon a piece of sunshine
Our early morning boat
You told me to wait while you to
locked the gate tightly.
The moon turned to lay on its other
Overhanging other kisses;
A curtain of fog, the smell of other
It was by a canal:
The silhouette of a small boat
against the bridge
The rocky shore lying still to
listen to strange sweat
Of midnight moonlight falling drop
Your hands are searching for the
Every finger of the night is a
A pure roadway
Awakes a breath of fragrance.
The string of sounds overflows to
Going along with the moon, a laughing
and speaking moon,
Spilling forth transparent color.
Leaves re-echo the waves of tangled
In that place hidden
from mountain heights, are forests themselves;
The water’s skin
stretched so tight, no waves pass;
The lissome colors of
the kookaburra’s back
Transforms me into a
flap of moon.
I lead you by the hand,
the wind lifts up your flower dress;
I kiss you, my little
Lifts you up to the
The good weather rises
under my feet,
A heart throbs in the
A stream of moonlight
around the trunk.
Moving faster, my
Lighter on the earth, my
hand lengthens along it.
Slow down now, listen to
All the streets, the
districts, slopes, estuaries,
All the cornfields, the
paddies are learning to laugh, practicing to sing...
The pigeon was back,
Bringing the afternoon along
Clasped in its wings:
An afternoon dressed in grey
With a white compartment at neck and
With tiny claws, as it steps up to
The day, dazzling and radiant
Droops the virginal flower
Tenderly shutting it down:
This is the time to make love,
To light up the dark territory;
The ancient season of
pollen and birth, the seeds’ combining,
Passion and slumber in late night moon.
Clasping the knees of old stumps,
Closing their eyes on the windy
The seeds fall in the mud,
Tomorrow this earth
And the whole world will change.
FIGURE A PATCH OF GRASS
silence listening to the white lotuses
rise up into
The chamois footstep knocks on the
From now on the world can’t sleep
Everything’s busy, stirring in the
dew of night
Grass blades, tree leaves, a
brand-new mountain top
shining in the sun,
birds flying above the crags
The swift river rolls on, rutting
fish flashing in the water.
The sun shines on the other side of
Under this vault of leaves, birds
nest, the breath of dawn.
In this daybreak only I can see the
the sound of birdsong wakens
thanks to the road that leads me on.
The high clouds overhead,
the falling leaf--
these lesser things are the very
being of being.
The corner of quiet lane holds its
The earth has changed its season.
Flowers grown before the posts of
handrail, their petals soft and crimson.
The stump of ancient tree seems
It’s time for Holy Mass,
to bless the Holy Body, to ring the
Tomorrow morning you’ll change into
the tint of velvet roses reflected
in your face
Hypnotized the gust of wind suddenly
The bird’s note pierces the crown of
enters my body as I pass into sukhavati(5)
Quiet dispels from the soul
the way back from the empty mind.
The birdcall’s, shadowy, flickering,
lights up each part of the body,
So it seems to me I’m flying with
the whole flock of birds
my expanding chest, chokes the sound
Which bird has been hurt?
The whole forest margin beats its
Where are you
The question cuts off the rushing
my mouth obeys the shape of the
Near dawn I awake
The bell of night covers the land
Fumbling I try to push up.
There’s no place for the night to
I don’t know where it turns into a
your body highlights kindle the
you are vaguely throughout my body.
Open the eyes, the color of the
raising the siege of the light
You’re far away from the bell
A chrysanthemum in mid air.
Go towards the end of the road
to where the storm begins
to cleanse your heart into purity
Only the dusty canopy
and dry rags of leaves know it
Can’t wait for the rain
Can’t yet see the end of the road
The wind is already floating
- Are those drops of water to
- No, it’s rain in the vault of
leaves left stagnant from yesterday.
The cat so sleepy in the sunshine
yawning with half-closed eyes;
Life overwhelms all intentions.
I’m tired at work:
I tried out your predefined plan;
I also didn’t finish it.
Should I blame the cat
for drawing my mind into its sunny
Wake up, quickly, I’ll plunge into
and become that cat with half-closed
The winds gently shaking yellow
flowers, the flower color I like.
There’s some confusion amongst wild
heath-bell, musk-mallow, fibrous
Hurriedly I sketch some flowers,
the winds caress messes with my
I add a pair, boy and girl, on an
equal half of peduncle;
integrate each face and pair of
It’s not clear which side the wind
A giant petal swings above my head
the soft wind makes two merge into
the tiny one trembles as in a storm.
The stars rise behind the sunshine
in the window of the house
The news of storm clouds coming
Lightning flashes far away
To either think or say it eases the
Just now, calm and quiet
I was one minute away from annulling
the self’s hearing itself,
looking into life relaxed and
On the ethereal sky each flock of
those closest to stars, will draw
(love each other, then later, can’t
remember the face).
Work’s all in a muddle again, I’m
short of breath.
I linger beside the narrow door
looking at the sparkling ripples on
the swift-flowing river.
brighten the small doorway
The blue sky beyond, rainy, sunny
the worry and calculation cannot see
One moment begins the day
draw a fan-shaped horizon
Every bright streak memorizing some
you hiding behind a giant fan
Dry leaves are falling;
by late afternoon the thunderstorm
opens up the flight path of birds.
The echo of your voice, sounds as if
you wrapped a light
warm scarf around my shoulder
touched me with the old foolish time
Pick a flower, clamp it between the
pages of poetry.
Young birds rise up in the nest’s
the leaf canopy drooping in the
You laughed and talked, innocent as
The rain sprinkles, I’m haggard with
Quiet, alone I knit my fingers
don’t allow light to pass through
don’t allow wind to go through.
Here no sun shines, no wind blows
Most terrible when nestled in quiet.
I become the pea, the point of a
a lone chopstick.
Up there the sky still high
A bright cloud drifts swiftly by,
Your scarf flirtatiously floating
by chance from a window of the house
birds fly past, flock by flock.
Calling your name, I gently evoke
the smoke going up through a roof
in the middle of the forest, silence
has no wind.
The pen’s on the table.
Cleaning up I still want to leave it there. Holding the pen; I relax, this pen
is both strange and familiar. The penholder smooth, the fingers holding.
Sometimes I unscrew the pen to see inside (must do this sneakily because this
is a bizarre behavior). I undo the cap of the pen as one would burst open a
door, pry open the hatch of a dark cellar... Feeling suddenly awake, I open my
eyes. I want to remove the pen cap somewhere. Place the pen cap above, the pen
to the right or below. Even vice versa.
Screwing... undoing ...
The pen balanced and unharmed.
I lean on the railings of the
together with you flying close
your soft waist and hair tossed back
Reminded of the small bag I carry
A little food and a bottle of
The ship glides on the waves
I want you to fly higher,
While far away like a bird
I calmly peck a small sip of water.
The sea wider,
you’re wavering far away
very tiny, making me squint.
The waves roll in under the bows of
one column of water follows another.
Relaxing, I drink tea
bright as sunlight, the russet color
of the flower in your lapel,
your legs splayed open on square
the fragrant tea opens the space
between your arm, the fold of your
your toenails painted dark tea color
Remind me to sip...
Slow each gulp
I see the lap of tea’s land rising
up green in early morning,
the buds of tea leaves shrink
every roof, every mountain, lifting
up this dew,
white clouds coming to wrap around
I’ve nearly finished drinking the
cup of tea
imagine only white clouds,
your face appearing and
happiness and you…
This delicious cup of tea makes me
I drink in the white cloud,
The color of your toenails tea
color, appearing and
disappearing as they walk past.
You whispered those meaningless
that I always understand, hear so
blue sky, feet on the grass,
the richness of the land,
touches each of my toes.
My breath warmed up the
cold phone, and you asked me “Had breakfast yet? What are you doing? Remember
to sit up straight.” I answered vaguely, putting my hand on the desk. Your
voice murmured. The electric-fan at low speed blew wind across the room. The
wide desk. The narrow door. “If I stretch out my hand I can touch everything.”
I said. “Vases of flowers this morning are fresh”. It was your voice. The
echoes were yours, violet flowers, surrounded by tiny foliage. I listen to you,
then put away the book.
The pen and clock drift by
I want to stop by the roadside,
lie down in the grass
the sky high over me; I want to
climb the tree;
looking down, I regret the sand,
crave to blend into sand.
An irresolute moment: I’m
I ignore the morning dew that swarms
the salty waves and sun, that rushes
pull me, stretched out, like a
chariot to tear my body into pieces
Before I put the book down,
It’s like trying to calm down while
waiting for the butcher’s command
The sad water-drop flying up to the
listen to the warm-hot egg rolling
over my body,
a pair of brown sparrows hurrying to
Dawn grows animals, fruit trees, the
fuchsia, impatiens, fresh and pure.
Dawn’s color sinks into the ground,
melting in a great wave,
reflecting the green arched leaves.
The silvereye preens(6).
The chest of chamois expands
behind the back of dawn.
Everyday jobs are boring.
The body worn out,
the mind unfounded,
the joints exhausted on a chair.
This hand, the left hand to be
wearily opens the gate I left ajar
I gently brandish it when bird shit
happens to fall on it.
And the remaining hand
rose up an hour ago
when everybody voted,
There is something that must be
recorded in the report.
And the legs, forgetting which one
strode along while the sun still
in front of me, a lot of strangers,
behind my back, the voices of
When I hear half of one sentence
over the phone;
I know I went astray.
The sound of water from the crest of
the quiet cascade
you’re connecting two peaks of the
A photograph of forest’s edge
above a coverlet of grass;
Clouds crossed directions,
stormy and sunny together,
almost rainless, a little cold.
Mark each blade of grass
ask the grass to reprint this photo.
I’m taking the picture now, ok?
The holding hand has waited too
I’m embracing your shoulder like a
you told me: don’t ever let go;
suddenly impulsive, you laugh and
You’re like a gemstone iridescent in
or a piece of wood carved with the
figure of a sacred beast, your own icon.
I worry that you must carry too
I run after you
When you tiptoe, or gently hold with
your skirt flies up in the early
the pattern fades onto your brown
But someplace else I’m embracing
a silence necklace waiting for you
The body consecrates itself
with a sweet and musk fragrance.
You are the bulbul bird;
my pursed lips empty out,
and flapping wings
hold me in your mouth and set to
sowing the seeds.
This cup of coffee makes everything
the voices of birds make harmony,
coffee soaking into my skin, my
I fold my arms, relax.
Suddenly the birdsong hangs me up
by the bird’s nest
of dry straw stems
in that crack in the loosened stone
under the roof tiles.
Suddenly your voice,
in the still time of imagination
after the chip chiu, a mother bird
- suddenly - is flying out of my
On your desk everything is
briefcase , a newspaper, keychain,
Quickly glancing at the clock,
eating sweet cakes you lean back,
a glass of water in your hand.
Your belongings familiar
silent like a train pausing in the
before its shuddering pushes along
briefcase, newspapers, the keychain,
coupled like train cars
till, urgently, they brake.
Often I wake wondering if I’ve come
home on leave,
like a pupil in the summer holidays
far away from the worries of
We slept as deeply as two bottles
two matchsticks jostling in a
two pictures in one frame
two bits of memorabilia kept in the
two rivets smashed deep into on the
I find your hand and gently hold it
Suddenly the crest of the hill,
surprised, touches the new day
an un-budded bough,
a boat loose from a rope untied.
Like nets that have dived deep into
each knot drying out now under the
Today I still haven’t
got your message. I’m getting lost in the leaves, the laughter, and the salty
wind... Opening the door, I look out. No one clinging to the path drifting in
the afternoon. No one holding back the train-whistle that spreads across the
land. The whistling only touches me, and does not pass me. Behind me, only
silence. Everything drifting as it continues in the drifting.
But when you raise your
voice, the whistle starts again; faster, although, I know the train is past the
station, already too far away.
July is busy
You wake up in red blaze of dawn
Tear off the calendar sheet’s
(except you, are not important)
The warble of a bird behind the red
flares up like a streak of oil
a streak of sunshine flashing across
Hard at work knitting each mesh,
a small fish passes through my
... calm down, don’t boil over with
Lying side by side, we fall asleep
dreaming a field with deep well
our hands continuously drawing up
each bucket of water
the resonance of the land
tree roots softly stretching,
a flower blooming where we watered
For a long time we water, throughout
the whole field,
thinking and pulling, faster and
the spring’s cascade unblocked,
it finds its way throughout the rows
of paddy laden with grain.
You also told me about your dream
not just of wells but of a whole
canal full of water
you piling up each bundle of golden
pushing me away like a small boat
Holding hands in sleep
we both dream of holding the oar,
leaning close against the gunwale.
A small umbrella capsizing in the
reeds flowers lying down to endless
Your thin fabric floating up and
the wind’s struggle flaps the
Who’s this stranger who wants to
drag you away?
Like a little ant in your world
I could be crushed beneath a broken
under a shoe heel.
pierced by a drill tip, a hoe blade,
scorched by a soldering stick,
dragged by the screech of the iron
burned in a forest fire,
turn to ash in the center of the
because of knowing so
whether upon the hilltop
or in the deepest cave,
I’m incarnated into myriad species
proudly swarming over your body.
From above, you’re a fish stabbed
through with fish spear, a bird shot by a bullet
the slow-motion rhythmical dance of
a blooming flower
the warm water that opens the ritual
rolling me slippery, the necklace
falling to pieces
arch bosom dropping fruit that
flood swept, collapsing rock, a
A beast that rips the rope that
space crushed into aromatic milk,
erect breasts succulent tense,
rearing all the babies of the world.
My fingers paddle in the water
there’s such space around here,
tumultuous palisades, gateways,
those hidden houses far away.
The water border spreads out into
The words you speak are sometimes
far away, sometimes closer,
my hand swimming across the current.
My lips glide softly past
the red teal, the ducks on the lake
kissing deep... kissing deep...
... the circles of ripples, chasing
one another to forever
And the water turning over
in lapping cadence, slosh-slosh,
in silence listening to the white lotuses
You advise me, though wherever I
imagine that I’m lying on a water
eyes closed, the waves rushing over,
streaming down from the top of a
the crown of a coconut tree suddenly
or a flap of sunlight slanting away.
Under my back flat ground, hardwood,
sharp thorns, pointed rocks.
Imagine that by accident, you drop
my hammock would break off, I’d be a
leaving on the sky a swirling abyss
The dream stretches over soft
the arch of my breastbones,
Ardent breathing in, the smell of
Touching each other, we listen to
The road faraway, with its trees and
leaves sleeps peacefully,
wakes and protects us,
holding tight to my heel.
The rain glistens on your body
flowers and plants euphoric with
freely shout to the wide high blue
their silent imaginings.
The boiling water screams, the bear
scorched with flames,
secretes bile and honeycomb
every tapering claw
broken, squeezed dry,
the fragments trickling down.
Raining with sweat, our hair sticks
together in endless nature,
our smooth skin sprouting fur.
Your shoulders remind me of an
I hide our secret in a bookshelf
How the haughty hill
lifts me up in the gale,
The bridge over months and days
where children keep their enigmas.
The flutter of soft grasses, the
swaddles me, as warm blanket covers
I have crept into the dark entrails
of the earth,
into that serene underground
It was hoe plow germination...
I am patient as a cricket burrowing,
Like a night heron digging into fog
in search of prey;
I am the echoing cry of the
water-hen looking for its
Mate in the summer noon.
Sliding our bodies into each other,
throwing on each new stick of
you and I together light up the
Waves of hair, shoulders, arch of
the tongue twists in its final
Molten iron and steel pour into the
thrusting down in water,
The tinkling sound plowing on the
Kiss me and hold my hand!
The sound of wind chimes covers
The leaves can’t stop,
the wind blows thatched roofs inside
just mounds of rice straw,
snatching my hair, tearing my shirt.
Leaning my head on you, I cradle you
Waves push against the slender dam
the target flies out at once to catch
the range of the stray bullet,
the light is choked, seeping around
and gusts of fire plunge upward to
the summit at the moment of rebirth.
The dewy lips holding the flap of
Fly quickly to follow the tower
I break you, braid you into rope,
a tongue swallowing deep to my chest
to the spine
till it touches my heel.
Breath, space, heat
cuddled by bird wings;
each fragile egg
breaks out in the hatching,
I hide in your shell, groaning
Rummaging, throwing up sharp waves,
flooding deep, crushing sweet fruit,
slowly sucking the freezing
A large teapot poured into small
An almond chewed delicious by stumpy
I kiss you as if sucking out all the
shadows of night
freshly cracking the over-ripe
The dwarf bamboo puts forth more
fire stoked up by the poker,
the blue crab that changes his shell
Inside of you is me
a muntjac fawn newborn
on the wet grass
a bowl of water
evaporating, the steam curling upward
a world hastening to
the tree canopy photosynthesizes the
leaf overlaps leaf,
springing up, breathing together a
stream of sap,
blood from the land running up
through its feet.
The tree’s shade spans to the tip of
You cling to me, floundering, gaze
As the burning pain bursts the
raindrops sprinkled over grass,
the young bamboo shoot stretching
the soft surface of the earth.
Your hips are a half of a fresh cut
a spoon lifting you up from the
the deep lips quivering, the sweet
I am mouth with teeth clasping,
the eagle seizing with its talon,
the tiger, the panther twisting its
awesome flanks, rebounding,
a poisonous snake that sucking
delivers warm venom,
the great tree uprooted in the
flood, pressing against your sandbank.
the light turned off, the dark
immeasurably black, it’s up to the
vitality of this sail
crossing the giant storm with you
sponges softly unfolding
the tongue like fire’s frenzied
our lips wavering and shaking,
forever withstand the force of wind,
kisses that hold the immense
fragrance of night
bearing me away to the infinite
to return upside down
as the boat shudders, you hear
covered with grass blades,
the sea wind held strong fragrance
of a mother’s womb
navel-string sucking each sweet
strangled, sinking deep, drowning,
the shores finally grab hold of your
I am naive enough to, know that I
and as I hold you
in my arms you sing
sunbeam has drifted from the riverbank into the marsh, guiding the grasses and
trees, flowing among the glory of the cornhusks, the velvety yellow, the young
rice seedlings in their solid green, the pines cheering in the sweet wind...
Your finger motionless in my hair
you asked me what I’m remembering,
what I’m thinking
little children who left the nursery, the leaves falling lightly, how they separate
the wise obliquely crossing the foolish, going along with this, listening to a
sincere voice makes us burst out crying...
And you’re kissing me and singing
... the tiny
buds sprouting in moist soil, the bees returning to make honey, together in a
tremulous voice, the pubescent moon ripe the cycle of rivers rushing into
choppy seas, the dream of wandering aimlessly... Uh oh...
Diving into the water seeing the
flapping wings and screeching,
I hold onto a fragrance,
a bird’s rustle,
The sea is in labor,
the squid, a star drifting into another
reverses the currents of the sea
flattens the water’s surface
I stood at the cracked sandy edge,
near the flotsam
a pair of brown stockings no longer
rolled in those shoes,
sunglasses found far away from the
I hold my breath because I know the
treasure is nearby;
I keep looking; try to open each
You wake me up by the familiar words
It’s today already!
Throw aside pillow and blanket for
this is the honest meaning of the
A cup of aromatic tea to dispel
the puppet newly tied stretching the
Open the door, take a deep breath;
kick-start the motorcycle
the engine sounds softer today.
Are you pulling the strings
somewhere to speed up
Wind chimes vibrating though there’s
ripe fruit self-peeling tidy on the
the panic sound of a kingfisher
struggling violently in dream-sleep
Alone in this desolate alley,
I wave my hand to salute the
difference of yesterday
It’s day already!
I’m in motion
And you’re dubbing.
The crowd wearing my face
suddenly rushes up to
then stands transfixed
in the light that defines the face,
and the music
At the moment the crater is about to
the shotgun pumped and ready for the
The quarry escapes, by turning into
the other path.
As midnight moonlight falls
Into cups of salvation for the
A mother gibbon gives birth to her
baby in the time of childbearing
one hand hanging onto a branch,
she swings over the deep abyss
The world is silent
but for the gentle sound of a flute
that comes from you.
Multi-personalities divide in the
I, I and I...
I see you throw down a hat,
... poison grass sprouts up in the
... defying its place of birth and
... interference: an electronic
wave, hunch, clairvoyance
I, I and I...
You were silent, judging the
... I’m a sharp knife, sneaky
... slowly, heavily, flying back to
... knowing I will get you in the
... don’t focus any more energy on
(someone backstage is picking up the
When alone I thought:
I’m half of a fruit
half of a singing bird
half of a deep cave
a part of the noise
half of a fish
a corner of the hull
half of the silent connection
to a plain surface…
... I step on the edge
of a ditch full of water a row of trees called riot picking up the seed of
northeast wind unceasingly pressing on the white canvas sketching your portrait
the colors still not yet dry, paint then erase, the sketch not yet finished,
revolving in every direction still feeling the cold wind blowing in slanting me
back to you.
A tumbler on the desk
whenever I get tired I look at the
Flicking gently on the brim of the
tumbler makes it rouse;
Makes me remember, I’m moping in a
Outside, the babel of the early sun,
the wind spreads further through
and further away still...
Like a Russian matryoshka
Opens to show the smaller
Smaller, and smallest...
In a game
you come to open the door of my room
and see your matryoshka, reading his
- Let’s stay awake through the
- To see what?
- The skirts of late summer
- Stirring the stem and bough
- Your arm balancing the scenery
- Open the thorny fence
- You don’t see the star
- Vaguely trembling
- You’re incubating that handful of
sand on your chest!
- The crystal light
- In the giant black shadow of the
- We’re throwing handfuls of sand
into the dark night.
Lay your hand on me
a soft root in moist soil,
the face of naive leaf.
Teach me how to spell things:
this is a bowl and chopsticks
this is the floor, shoes, sandals
too many sounds of water
water dripping…dripping... tide
surging... water flowing swiftly...
My body is a country of waterfalls
the rushing heart flowing away.
Soaked in water the sun has cooled
suds of the phosphorescent waves
floating, drifting, following the
current of water.
Last night I had a dream again: you
pulling me as if windsurfing.
the shadow of your feet slender,
elongated on the water’s surface
Waves swerving aside,
I’m holding your hand tightly,
your face quivering in the wind.
You call out to the contrary wind:
- you’ve got enough inertia, fly by yourself,
I somersault through wind and water
shrimp, seaweed and fish
white clouds and sun
all memories with fantastic
Tilting to the left
I close my eyes, spin to the right,
turn on a roundabout;
I’m a veteran athlete
the number one seed.
Idol of the audience’s heart,
a circus on the water.
I calm down and recall
All the spectators have your face.
I wake up among the blossoms of the
box-fruit tree, still half asleep
the sea outside still sleeping,
the sand shore stretching to the
foot of clouds
Your breathing monotonous like the
sound of the waves
releases soft mesh that sinks to the
beginning of the dawn.
A row of trees bury their roots down
in my daydream,
their shade wandering, overlapping.
The clumsy fish wake up early
gently waving their tails
dropping themselves into the net of
Strong winds inflamed your throat
the sound on the phone is not clear
it’s just you whispering,
I heard that noise from a rock on
the waves were whispering,
This hand-shaped cloud wants to grab
I don’t know where to escape, there’s
strong wind and a huge sea
I cling to the rock.
This seascape fades me out;
only the waves know how to speak,
keep whispering, whispering...
The vague sound frightens me
with the sea, the hand-shaped cloud
you too convey a lost voice in the
The sea goes back to whispering,
The lampshade is gray
the lamp stand is brown
you far away from the lamplight, I
do not see.
Just like a telepathic losing his
despite being kindled I must add a
The hairpin transcends the dome-port
throws a coin into the mouth of a
the bee fills up the pistil,
the fish pulling the float just
Where are you now? Please light up a
lamp so I can see.
At noon I lie face down in the lake
let the waves sharpen on my body,
grabbing my back, squeezing and
raking my shoulders
The scepter hard as iron rises to
the ground here is moving
mountain and hill, the surface of
the water undulating.
The land resounds, rumbling,
cracks wide open, each seam of ore
a dog howls, in a thick hoarse
Still we understand each other, yet have forgotten
we loved. Consecrated voices.
The sound I lived for.
The new sun, peaceful;
the areca leaf softly falling
the cooling wind
the corn being pollinated
Closing eyes, towering temples,
the sound of a hammer pile driving
on concrete deep down into the ground;
a champagne cork flying up to the
the fragrant wine spilling on the
the glasses transparently clear.
Crushed into powder in a stone
a chunk of bones yell in the stew
Quiet beside you
the imposing stone mountain.
Breath like the fluttering rain
of yellow powder from the pine trees
lightly covering me
a warming wind rustles in my mouth.
The rice grain buckles its body.
Beside you I perform the ceremony
for the sun
for the waterfall, the great river,
my shadow on the water’s flowing
The calf rubs in his mother’s lap
The puppy comes close, then runs
zigzag around your legs
The glittering sword thrusts down
into the ground,
craving the sound of a massive
explosion, the nap
of high tension cables broken,
the levee shattered, the flood
overflowing the plains.
The worm buckles its body down into
the moist soil,
the kestrel somersaults in mid-air.
I’m blinded with passion; I can’t
distinguish your hand from my legs,
my breath gets lost in your
I’m thrown up on the foam of a
a giant python swallowing its
helpless little prey.
My chest swelling to the brim with
longing to be caressed, cherished,
my body slowly cools down,
the lake of virginal waters opening.
Together we become a trunk
our vitality rolled up into one
Wood-grain hatched out over so many
I hold tight the creek flowing from
Stretching far away under the high
boughs, under the low hanging boughs.
The tall trees stand transfixed,
opening up their buds, sprout their
eyes, their lips open
in a question “Do you love me or
Suddenly the wind is blowing
our bodies swaying, our hair flying.
Be quiet for the flock of perched
but the wind startles them, they
suddenly fly off.
On the immense surface of
the earth, the tongue of the wind presses
its chaotic body - the
crown of my head at the center of whirlwind.
The tighter I grasp, the
stronger the shaking and jerking, the hoarse
howling and screaming,
vacillating, urging, keeping the dried leaf tight in your mouth.
the more we strive, the
more we talk nonsense - in the anxious nightmare,
the path of passionate
kissing, the more we move in this freshness,
leading me by the hand
to the mouth of the abyss,
mumbling how we can’t
ever part from each other,
because we’re both so
afraid of the deep, which leaves us in a cold sweat.
We turn upside down
sticking tight together,
the flowers blooming and
bearing buds, the leaves hanging down,
protecting the dry
branches, dangling, tantalizing,
thunder, lightning for
eyes seeing out through the pouring rain.
Calmly I show you the
Breath breathing, panting in and out suddenly
the bell rings, bringing
together every sound
sound of you and I…with
Slip through the
the pointed paling that
divides the world into two equal sides.
In front is another
The coiling body in the
slowly dropping down, is
a wild-beast symbol
of passionate flesh
Running through a bright
circle of lights,
those creatures worry about
suckling, being fed through mother’s
mouth, finding the way to cry
(Knocking resounds backstage).
I sneak in from the other side of
A streak of colourless light,
slipping under my feet.
Plant a warning sign, plant a milestone.
All I have is the image of your
hand, dangling a drop of dew,
your eyes so expressive, the trace
of water on the ground.
I want to write verses as natural
as the way you walk on the ground.
So look at me
Imitating a fashion model, a Miss....
The word “One” (8) falls down too easily --
how about the word “Eight” (9)?
I walk the words out, they look
terrible, you disparage them,
desire is not so easy.
Don’t think about the footstep, you
Just rely on me, and then step.
“I’m right here... I’m right
here...” you say.
Like a toddler I’m following along
with you step by step.
I cover my eyes
on the long kilometers
till the joy of dewfall
and closing of the door
many ideas pass by.
I still see you
in the narrow space
between two houses--
you walk faster than I
and the sun’s not yet
Your hand reaches through the narrow
slit of sunset,
to hand me a bright gift.
I’m so happy to open it up,
meet thought I had forgotten.
I kiss you once, light one more
put them together.
I’m like the wick filament at the
heart of a candle
a bright twist of hair--
to make a fire that spreads through
the foundation of our house
drifting in the night of garlands
I’m the one who, luckily, dropped
early in the morning.
The sound of children shouting,
competing with each other
to place candles in our room.
“Please kiss me again!” You said
I drink all the fragrance --
you’re so tiny in the sharp fang and
calling for help, calling my name
a wild beast hungry and thirsty
The open pincer that grips too
tears off a finger. The lips of wild
counting in rhythmic jerks with
One... two... three... confusing and
And the number five resounding
a seed breaking off in the moist
a trunk just sawed through.
a sharp axe splitting the wood’s
calling each other’s name, like the
first time we met.
The chamois stampede down to the
throwing up dust behind them,
flying swift as an arrow
the instant it snaps from the
Here are grassy skies
a grassy ocean,
softly stirring with the words of
rivers and lakes.
The arrow flies downwind to reach
the flaps of grass trimmed,
crushed between sharp teeth.
The broken sky sounds the call to
the flock, to the pleasure of the black night
step by step, the chamois
The grass sprays ardor everywhere,
the thrill of the time of heaven and earth creation
the new season waiting for reaping,
of green grass closer to the root.
Those claws shear through grass
roots, taut, pressing,
tender grass now shaking
with more buds yet to reopen wide
(1) Mothergate - Mother in this
poem does not mean “mother” as normal. It carries the meaning of “the Way”, the
“philosophy of belief.”. As: “The Way that can be told of is not an unvarying
way; The names that can be named are not unvarying names. It was from the
Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang; The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand creatures,
each after its kind” (Lao-tzu).
(2) A kind of
gibbon (vọoc chà vá chân xám or ‘vọoc Java (?) chân xám’) Scientific name:
(3) Cốm: green
rice flakes, green rice; grilled rice. A Vietnamese special traditional snack
make from young sweet rice. Rice growing farmers are the only ones who truly
understand when it is time to gather young grains to make Cốm. Then young rice
grains are harvested, roasted and ground down to become Cốm. They are put into
a large firing pan under small flames and stirred slowly for a specific period of
time. They are then poured into a rice mortar and slightly pounded with a
wooden pestle, rhythmic pounding and at quick intervals until the husk is
removed. Following this, the young rice is removed from the mortar and winnowed
before being poured again into the mortar and the process repeated. This is
then repeated exactly seven times so that all the husk is removed from the
young sticky grains. If the pounding is done irregularly and in haste, or it is
not repeated for the prescribed seven times, the green colour of the grains
will disappear and be replaced by an unexpected brown colour. Cốm is regarded
as a purely pastoral gift. To enjoy Cốm, it is advisable to chew it slowly so
that one can feel the stickiness of the young rice and at the same time enjoy
its sweet, fragrant taste. Visitors to Vong village (about five km from Hanoi)
during the Cốm making season will have a chance to listen to the special
rhythmic pounding of wooden pestles against mortars filled with young rice and
see women shifting and winnowing the pounded young rice.
(4) According to the
Theravadan Buddhism, there are three modes of attaining moral wisdom:
Attaining moral wisdom from reading, hearing and instruction—Attuning
wisdom based on learning.
Cintamaya-panna: Attaining moral wisdom from reflection—Attaining wisdom
based on thinking.
Attuning moral wisdom from practice of abstract meditation (attuning
wisdom based on mental development).
(5) Sukhavati (Sankrit): The central doctrine of the Pure Land sects is that
all who evoke the name of Amitabha with sincerity and faith in the saving grace
of his vow will be reborn in his Pure Land of peace and bliss. Thus, the most important practice of contemplation in
the Pure Land sects is the constant voicing of the words “Namo Amitabha Buddha”
or “I surrender myself to Amitabha Buddha.”
(6) A kind of
bird, also call White-eyes or Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis).
(7) According to the Theravadan Buddhism, there are
three modes of attaining moral wisdom:
Attaining moral wisdom from reading, hearing and instruction—Attuning
wisdom based on learning.
Cintamaya-panna: Attaining moral wisdom from reflection—Attaining wisdom
based on thinking.
Attuning moral wisdom from practice of abstract meditation (attuning
wisdom based on mental development).
(8) and (9) : “Nhất”: mean number (1) One in Vietnamese, in
Chinese: - ;“Bát”: number (8) eight in Vietnamese, in Chinese.
of Trần Nghi Hoàng
Writer, poet, translator, literary studies. Trần Nghi
Hoàng lived in America for over 30 years, returning to reside provisionally in
Hội An from 2008. Author of 17 books and nearly 10 works in completed work yet
published... Latest book: Thầy Vua (Lao Động publishing 2010, with co writer
Nguyễn Thụy Kha). He translated William Faulkner, Oscar Wilde, Pablo Neruda,
of Frederick Turner
Frederick Turner, Founders Professor of Arts and
Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas, was educated at
Oxford University. A poet, critic, translator, philosopher, and former editor
of The Kenyon Review, he has authored 30 books, including Natural Classicism, The
Culture of Hope, Genesis: An Epic Poem, April Wind, Hadean Eclogues, The New World, Shakespeare's Twenty-First
Century Economics, Paradise, Natural Religion, and Two Ghost Poems. With
his colleague Zsuzsanna Ozsváth he won Hungary’s highest literary honor for
their translations of Miklós Radnóti’s poetry. He has been nominated for the
Nobel Prize for Literature internationally over 40 times.
Thiết kế bìa sách, do Nxb. Hội Nhà văn ấn hành 2010: Họa sỹ, Thi sỹ Nguyễn Quang Thiều
Bản Việt ngữ tại:
Tập thơ BẦU TRỜI KHÔNG MÁI CHE, Nxb. Hội Nhà văn, 2010