Thứ Tư, 19 tháng 10, 2011


VOICES FROM VIETNAM*                                                                                              
                                                                                                   Translated by
                                                                                                  Dam Xuan Can


                                                       My Legacy to you

This is for HUONG

When I am near you I can never think of tomorrow
Because of mixed feelings in my heart.
My joy-lit eyes suddenly darken
When I think of long, cold nights without you.
I can only think for the future
 Awakening at midnight inside the tent
                             not much higher than the grass;
Lying ready for the night battle
                              the wind blowing in my hair.
I can also plan for the future
When I come back to the boarding-house following the fight
In the room empty of everything
Apart from the table de nuit with your portrait on it,
A mess of dirty dresses,
             and a couple of studies of nudes with tantalizing smiles.

These times
I can think of a very modest future free from picture-like prospects.
We  know we cannot hope to have hapiness, living on plain water;
I could buy
                     a presentable house somewhere in the suburbs,
And a bicycle to ride to work twice a day.
We do not need barbed wire fences around the house,
                     nobody envies the land;
But it should have a flower garden for you.
these things
though modest
seem to be beyond our reach.

I want to rise higher
                but my knees are tired already.
Besides, fate seldom fails to play fatal dirty tricks on me
So, a second thought comes to my minds:
In the event of my death
Though I cease to breathe
                I will provide for you all the same.
What else  can I leave you ?
The tent which shelters me through the nights won't do for any worthwhile purpose;
At best it could be set up as a makeshift selling stall,
It cannot be used for living
                in a townful of buildings.

Let me think some more ...
They are of no earthly use - the rusty silver and copper medals
Awarded to me before my journey into death's country;
They deserve to be pinned to the coat hanger as relics of this war.
Let me see again...
My posthumous twelve-month gratuity
Will amount to something like one hundred thousand piasters ( because
                                                                                of the recent pay rise);
You will see it's a very handy sum of money, roughly the price of a vespa
- but a vespa will not be much use
Unless I am there to take you fore an evening drive,
I do not have the heart to leave to you my sorrows as a youth.
I have already paid for them toiling and facing dangers
                        perspiring and bleeding
Throughout my miserable career.

O darling,
              there is one precious thing I would like to give  to you,
The thing I do not hesistate to die for
 If God is
               He'll do the same
That's right, my dear,
With peace you'll have plenty og genuine
* Selected from Voices, ( Dai Nam Van Hien Books, Saigon 1971
 Copyright TENGGARA 6 -  Kuala Lumpur  -1973.

                                                                                Translated by
                                                                               Dam Xuan Can

                            What I choose in this mad World.

I choose autumn, pine forest and sad sunshine;
I give up wrting poetry
                and will not torture myself anymore
Do me a favour, my solemn-faced and wise wife.
Say to me,
         " Burn a fire !   Hang the mosquito-net !"
I am the voluntary slave who is fully contented.
Let us have a long sleep,
             we'll wake up early
             set  out to grow vegetables.

Outside the hedge
              near the farm gate
We'll put up a board " Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted"
In all langauges of the world.

TENGGARA 6 - Kuala Lumpur  1973


                                                                                                              Translated by
                                                                                                             Dam Xuan Can

                                        1) Way to look at things at dawn

Here I am with the long night
Of days in the past and the future

The late carriage hastily bids farawell to the sad street;
The time- ground wheels still go round and round;
Lofty trees cast shadows on the road.
While the leaves are waiting for the wind, and the branches pitying the leaves.

Here I am with the deep night,
Bewildered with love and tormented by hate;
Nothing is left in my arms,
Spring is only a useless and bitter memory.

Here I am with the long night
With myself scattered on the open book and out in the rain-tapped yard.
Embracing the flowery land
Is not enough to express my boundless and compassionate love and hope.

 Here I am with the deep night.
My shoulders suddenly ache under the weight of history;
Roads, far and near, are choked with the smell of death;
Whatever the name, my country is the testing site of war.
What is left?   What is still amendable ?
Thousands of eyes are watching each other with rising despair.

In the long night, here I am
Awakened within the blood - mine and my people's.
Ups and downs of life should not dishearten us;
Wewill survive, we will survive

I am still with the tender night
My arms open, I look forward to watching things at dawn.

                                2) July the twentieth*

Nine o'clock at night;
The Faculty of Arts campus is packed as on a festival night.

I sneak in
The fire has risen hight;
Shoulder to shoulder in a circle
We assemble around the fire
The fire is burning hot:
             - let us all sleep not.

Sleep not!
Sleep not !
 After years of intolerable ignorance
The call is thundering in every direction.
Wake up.   We cannot indulge in sleep anymore.

Stand up!   March!
The turning of history is here
We have had too much bloodshed and misery in this wretched land;
We will no longer stand such cruel humiliation;
We are all children of Trung Vuong, Tran Hung Dao, Quang Trung, Le Loi,

Keep on marching!   says the voices of yesterday.
Clear the trail!   is today's call.

His voice resounding
The young speaker on the platform delivers the message;
The starlight in his eyes he walksout to the road.
Screaming in the fog and wind
The young and brave demonstrate
To wake up the town.

Sleep not to-night!
July the Twentieth
Sleep not tonight!
Whether in the North or in the South
Let us keep up our anger;
Whether in the North or in the South
Let us hold each other's hands tightly
The hour has struck!
Wake up everybody.

* The 20th of July, 1954 was the day of the partitioning of Vietnam.


                                                                                Translated by
                                                                                Dam Xuan Can

                                        1) The still-remaining sadness

Give me the still- remaining sadness
Of your pair of pearl-shaped and crystal tears;
At the bottom of the sea there are pearls
Along with mysterious eyes floating here and there
As sad as your tear-glistening face in the night light.

Christmas night wakes my memory
With  music in the background
Accompanying the worn-out song " Desperate Frontier Love "
I see your  wet eyes
And crystal tears disslove in my body
             drop after drop of lip-burning gin.
My heart biiterly grieves as in a dream
You have become tears yourself,
O my old flame, now the wife of Phien.
The chap used to sing the song, and was always by my side
In battles on green paddies;
With his beautiful voice he took you from my hands.

You have moved on the dancing floor in the dim light
As on the desert of life to the waltz of the century of wars.
The waltz you, Phien and I liked so well.
You moved from country to town.
 I from the partition line to the South
And poor Phien became a war casualty
We three belong to the generation of shattered dreams.

You are familiar to no one.   You are  frightened
At being exposed as a prey at the music and drinks.
And the singer's staccato voice keep ringing in your ears.
You will hold other bodies
              than that of the husband surviving the war
Give me the still-remaining sadness
The pearl shaped eyes
And crystal tears,
I will cry for you in the days ahead
Filled with the sounds of the lean waltz of the troubled century.

                                           2) Autobiography

I first learned the story of my life the year I turned ten,
When I started learning the history of my country.
My teacher used to say,
"Long ago our predecessors founded the country of Vietnam Under the Sun.
Now the sun has gone down - but why in the East ?"
Then  I understood and was deeply moved.
In the morning I looked at the bright sun on the fields
Where scarecrows had been set up for some thousand years
Where black buffaloes were pulling ploughs
and the menfolk planting seedlings with their hands
For one thousand years my country was enslaved by the Chinese
For eighty years by the  French,.
 No change whatsoever was brought about.
So runs my biographyy up to the age of ten;
The story of my ten years in the darkness of eighty years;

I learnt more about my life when I was twelve.
 Started missing the school drum beating.
Dreadful scenes right under my eyes...
My family fled to the coastal area leaving the beloved house behind;
The peasants rose up to fight.
Vast fields were left overgrown with weeds.
I no longer heard love songs alternately  echanged in sun-drenched days.
The scarecrows were in tatters showing patches of straw and mud.
Decent common folk were like scarecrows
They woke up very eraly in the morning to watch the situation,
At dusk they were still heading to some refuge in the hamlets.
Everywhere we fled the soldiers wearing combat boots
We saw with our own eyes
The stinking corpses drift to the riverside
And attached by hawks and crows.
So runs my biogarphy at the age of twelve.
At the start of a bloody war.

With a turn of the tide lfe changed.
Life was so sad when I was fourteen
When the comeback took place everywhere.
I returned to my old village
In the old days my beutiful three-roomed house with red tiles
Occupied a privileged spot at the end of the village
Right in front of a bamboo hedge.
Now the fire of war had burned all the supporting pillars,
Even trees wre mowed down, the trees with gorgeous leaves,
Weeds were growing eveywhere, blocking the entrance.
The plot of land I so treasured before
          had been profaned beyond recognition.
My whole country was engulfed in flames.
So runs my biography at the age of fourteen
I felt much older than my age.

I went to war when I was twenty
Fully aware my generation was being killed off bit by bit.
My student days vanished.   I put on fatigues,
I held a rifle without knowing why.
I witnessed civil war tearing my country apart
While I aimed and fired at people lest they fired at me
O people of the same race and language!
Since then I embarked on a Bohemian's life
Roving up and down the land : Lang Son, Bai Chay, Darlac, Kontum
With a pang in my heart,
Then the fall of Dien Bien Phu
then the Geneva Accords
The partition of the country
One million fled the North
Twenty five million were watching painfully.
So runs my biography at the age of twenty,
I turned twenty to see my country cut in two.

When I was thirty-two I began writing poetry
 To record the story of my life and of those taking part in the war.
I am writing
                  on behalf of those in the North
Wo have been denied the right of speech and the life of the soul
Twenty full years have passed in that Hell,
I am writing in the name of those living in the South
Who were bitterly deceived by so many regimes whether Republican or not.

A whole  society is disintegrating,
And lousy parties are still urging people to demonstrate
To denounces or support Mr So-and-So
My poetry is meant to bear witness for posterity
I wish you will understand me and my generation,
We are those who have suffered, risen up and fallen down
In the defence of our motherland,
So ends my  biography up to the age of thirty-two,
When I am thirty-two I fully perceive my real self.
 ( from TENGGARA  6 - Kuala Lumpur  1973.

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