THE WRITERS POST
VOLUME 12 NUMBER 1
MAI VAN PHAN
three poems by MAI VAN PHAN
translated by Do Xuan Oanh
Noted at the great wall
Cloud puts on the shoulder each heavy block of stone
Sand blurs the eyes
The breast breathes full of sand
Great Wall still being under construction ?
In the air a voice of Eunuch transmits imperial order
Any one captured making poem while carrying stone
Would be beaten to vomit blood
Turning up the eyes to meet a puffy face
Cold hands, leaden eyes, greasy voice
The Phong hoa dai(*) roof of cordyline color
In form of blood-stained dragon knife being put to the throat
Bend the back to push sunlight away
Stiffen the legs to push wind away
Provided you can get near the flower
Gently playing in the stormy wind…
His Majesty / His Excellency / Comrade…
This humble servant / this dutiful folk / I…
Will fulfill obligation
This is the peak of heaven
Or the bottom of a deep abyss
Only parching hot wrinkles of the rod are felt on the back
Sweat of travellers on gray stone
Bloom into cotton-rose hibiscus…
(*) Phong hoa dai : Watch-post on the Great Wall
Love text No 16 in Autumn Flowers
Here, I eat a choice titbit, here, I drink a cup of tea. I also give you a salt crystal, a wiping cloth, a sauce. And soy sauce, egg-plant, chinese pea, fragrant rice too…While being away you advise me to eat and sleep moderately, and eat for you one more spoon. I am a king-crab swimming around a table piled up with food. According to rituals of king-crab species, I always raise the food high before eating. I constantly remember you on my back, the big female king-crab that covers the ground. You are a slowly drifting cloud, the dawn en éventail, a lion fluffing out its hairs, a squirrel that moves in a flash from one branch to another. The draught twines my legs. The rain is silky, sifty, coldish…I am carrying the sky with my hard and solid legs. Seeds find light under my back. Laughings of children let fall strings of pearl. The inch-worm dumbfoundedly creeps around a chlorotic leaf stalk. A peony at the alley entrance just bloomed hastily….Monsoon, monsoon…And water runs, water runs !
Sometimes I forgot your recommendations. But it has become instinct, I again swim away and raise the food high.
Reciting a dream
Last night I dreamed of being forced to act as spy, the sort of double agent, which was called double-dealing spy in my native place. I had to act because being accidentally stuck in a round up, not for the sake of money. I still remembered well the password, knew how to cut the tail, to install an eavesdropping machine, and to secretly send a telegram…But I wondered why those telegrams and rudimentary communication means of the early last century still existed ? I again felt myself getting old in a different institution. In the morning I leaned on my stick and walked out on the street listening to the blowing wind, and smiled…Then I was discovered, also accidentally. Somebody found my name among the scraps, a file in which I was a twenty parties-dealing spy. Obviously there had been an ill-bred guy who deliberately added zero to the number 2. How could a secluded countryside have at the time that much as twenty institutions ? Was the countryside a place for measuring wits ? Or an information center ? A hot point ? I was sneered at and slighted by my children and grand children as a worthless one. Being cynically calumniated, I couldn’t explain away. I wanted to cry before committing suicide. But crying without reason was very difficult for an old person. I reconciled myself to soothe a new-born who just woke up among the tightly rolling nappies.
MAI VAN PHAN
The Writers Post
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