We promise one another-
poems from an Asian war .
N i g h t C r o s s i n g
by GIANG NAM *
The boat was coming in the dead of night ,
Clusters of bamboo , rising tide .
The oars shook the starry sky ,
A stray bird circled above ,
Noiselessly the boat came in the dark ,
As searchlights swept the top of the palms .
Guns loaded , eyes wide open ,
We waited .
The sampan girl rolled up the legs of her trousers ,
A cold wind blew in from the shore ,
As she helped load our packs on board ,
Bringing the scent of flowers and dry grass
From the forests and mountain .
As our hands touched we imagined her cheeks blushed red ,
I felt her warm breath , sensed her quick gestures .
Heavily laden , the boat pulled .
' May we help you , Comrade ?' I asked
She shook her head and made the sampan turn fast .
Living in the midst of enemy posts and blockhouses ,
She was used to containing joy and sorrow .
The boat went out into darkness ,
As the tide kept rising .
The oars again shook heaven and stars ,
On the other bank , the palms beckoned us .
The sampan girl kept her eyes fixed
On the distant watchover at the village entrance .
Her nimble hands worked the oars ,
Her slender silhouette loomed over the river .
A few more strokes ! The bank was now close ,
Tender joy welled up in our hearts .
A burst of gunfire tore the night ,
Sparks flew in the darkness ,
' Sit still, ' she said , 'don' t move ! '
The boat kept advancing towards the enemy .
It gave a lurch , bullets whizzed overhead ,
Her silhouette towered over the waves .
' Sit down , sister , we will row , ' we pleaded ,
' No , brothers , don 't worry ,' Again the boat moved forward .
The whole dark sky was in turmoil ,
Our hearts ached , our eyes shone with anger
Enemy slugs swept the river ,
In our hands our riffles burned with hatred .
The boat was now safety moored to a tree ,
We were forced to leave quickly ,
But slowly shook the girl ' s hand ,
' Thank you, ' we whispered .
A smile lighted her face as she shook her head ,
' I 've done my duty . '
Her figure faded in the night .
As we marched across the village ,
We still heard muffled steps .
Valiant girl , your memory
Is alive in our hearts
As we press on to other battles .
GIANG NAM ..
* Giang Nam is the pen name of a well -known poet and guerilla of the National Liberation Font . Before he jopined the Front He worked as a pedicab driver , a rubber plantation worker ,an a bookeeper in an business firm in areas controlled by the Saigon regime . He later took in part in many battles while his wife and five-year old child were kept in jail. He has expressed through his moving poems and writings the simple aspirations and feeling of the average guerilla who love his land, his neighbors , his family , but above all wants to see his country independent and reunified . .. ( Don Luce ).
His real name : Nguyễn Sung .
Date and place of birth : 1929, Khánh Hòa Province .