Life As A Hanging Rope
translated by DAM XUÂN CÂN
Eighteen years of age, ample breasts, nice make up,wearing jeans, looking
at the rain outside
Night was torn apart by the sad, sad voice singing
Midnight. Opening the door, looking at the rain now falling thicker
Sure as hell, she could kill men with her charming smile
But the seldom smiled to those around her
Her step-father was not Daddy and was rather badly treated at that
Her mother brought sorrow to her first children by marrying a second husband
Her own son, a kid as strong as an athlete and as manly as an
You pay for your crime, I tell you
Night after night you sleep with my mother
When I am a man I will strike you for sure
I'll put a stop to your dishonoring my family's name
No, no, no.
You should not put on airs, telling us to do this or that
My sister is no longer a teenager, she can sing if she likes to
And she can sleep with anyone she damn pleases
See me, face me, silly old man !
You are fifty and you still pratice gym
You like good food, good drink, good clothes
You like fun. Do you still love life that much ?
You're mo moralist, o silly old man !
You hate me,
brand me as a hoodlum because I'm no son of yours.
Mignight... I awake and heard the full cries of anguish!
The morning was misty, the lamp was still burning
A girl's sigh saddened the heart of any sensible boy
Have a look at her in the mirror : she was ravishing, there is no doubt about that
Her lips rouged, but not to see her brother off for soldiering
Mind you, it was not bullets that he would fire, but its was anger
Mother could not help her tears
Sister looked at him as if he was a lover?
I woke up in the middle of the night, hearing sobs ...
The daughter told everybody she made clothes
She was off very early every morning and was not back until late night
What the hell did she really do, nobody had any clue
But who really cared ! Who really cared !
Thanks to her . her little sisters had candies to eat
Thanks to her, they had nice clothes to wear
And they had nice words to say about her, they were very fond of her
We the neighbors believed what we were told. We were not fussy people.
At night we heard merry singing and sobbing as well !
One morning she was escorted home by two cops, with the handcuffs on her wrists
How pitiful she looked ! She could only weep to plead for mercy
There was conclusive evidence : she was caught sleeping naked with
a foreigner in a hotel
Ah, what a shabby singer she was ! By no stretch of the imagination could
she is taken as a tailor...
As for me, I believed her self-defence supremely convincing
I judged her and found her innocent
I passed the verdict as a poet, I got no money at all, so it was not a
I was concerned to see deeply into human motivation
The fake singer's mother cried loudest of all
That night, it was surprisingly quiet, no singing, no sobbing, nothing...
I could hear the funeral march beating
As coffins passed through the road in front of my house
Day after day without relatives following the coffin
Who had died ? How did he live ? Could a life be so short and sad ?
I knew you were those who had paid the price of partriotism
Seeing the flag- wrapped coffins.
Alas, it broke my heart that those wives forgot you, not long after that
I knew they wanted to go married again, leaving your children uncared for
I knew why these unfaithful women hated dogs like hell !
Night and day were indistinguishable, the singers'voice and weeping already
died down ...
Then one sad evening, I raised my voice to sing for myself
Evoking the sad image of two love beings, her and myself, on the hill of pines
The little girl from the house next door started eating candies bought
Seeing her wearing a mourning band I asked her about it
Sadly she told me his brother had been killed in a battle
When I asked about her sister whe shook her head.
No, no, I have no sister
My sister was not a whore !
I apologized as she broke in tears ...
Night and day are alike, life is but not a hanging rope
They are still living, still living... there is not much sound any fury...
Saigon July, 16,
( from Uplifting Poems / The Phong,
Dai Nam Van Hien Books, Saigon 1974.