to Vu Thi Ty

This morning like other morning
I open my eyes, stretch to greet the flamered sunrays
which have burned the rancour in me for thirty years
love now is sweet sour and bitter
my lips but I still hold a pimento fruit
I cannot remain thoughtless before the big cup of black coffee
part of our diet in the barrack
looking at my my lean silhouette
on the hot sands
I sadly think my only amusement is eating rice
dearer to me than my sweetheart's caresses
let me live more days of despair and sweat
hour by hour my people are increasingly
suffering the war fever
in the sound and fury of mortar fire, tank and jet-fighters
rosy lips of beautiful women glisten amidst war
a young soldier ruins his future
with the hostess in the cafe on the beach too keen on betrayals
watching her guests with experienced eyes she orders drinks on their behalf
what will be left to us after years of war
countless rosyy lipped youths have died to preserve these bright eyes of yours
I am but a perfect stranger
last night I lived to my utmost
this morning
I feel ten years older
beautiful love is love in the morning
late in the night
is nasty
the European female singer with passionate voice
makes feel like crying
tapping the thin female dog lying at the road side
a G.I. pushes the door in
while I am sitting at this table to write verse
to bury sad days
the mountain not far from me has witnessed
the twenty-year long desultory war
Japanese troops dug trenches for ammunition
American troops rushed to Vietnam
with the ball point pen
write line after line
on the sea at Vung Tau
are ships and carriers
last night there was a hilarious party
for Vietnam. US, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, China and Korea
this is why I am often mistaken for another
even by a Korean girl
I am Vietnamese, I am not a Korean
my skin is yellow and I want to defend my country
like any of my friends of other races
I look in her eyes
as if to tell her we should put old conflicts out of our minds
and carry on an new life for all of us
The European singer's voice has shattered me
in Eo Quan -Vung Tau five years ago
Oh sweet memory always dear to me
it has been flooding back into my consciouness
to me any Vietnamese girl is lovable
this is precisely why I worry
because weeping cadets
torment me prior to their time of departure
Oh young soldiers!
you will go and I will stay in this training camp
for how long I cannot tell
after yor departure
head down I cry my eyes out
on account of communion the iron bed sweats
nothing is more precious than highly exalted love
between youths of twenty and thirty
who swear to live nad die together
who meet amidst the fury of fire
as none will bathe twice
in the same river
we will never meet again
like this - the graduate night
of us all on the sands
dunes and hills crumble away
and the moon shines not for our enjoyment
after your departure
I look around
in the studying, eating, nad sleeping rooms
there is nothing left on the floor but desks, and chairs and rubbish
there are women to entertain us for a moment
but I cannot count on you
so that later on when I become and old man
leaning on the stick
I will sing of memories as a young man
O youths dying with heads broken
where is peace that we will long for
of course
I can't meet all of you
an army is complete
only before the battle
who will be missing
o my dear brothers, my loves ones.
Bird's warblings in the morning in the dreamlike coffee-arabica flower garden
dry brown terminalia leaves grace the pebble-covered lanes in the park
an old man with white hair and beard
walking past, leaning on the stick
is myself in after years
sand sounds of music begin wounding my heart
I pray, I pray
so that everything will be all right
and the rosy lips of the hostess will not hasten to fade
the lamps in the room will remain lighted
these things, however trivial
all contribute to our happiness
o my love
I am in the sulks on account
of your not so sincere words
though it is my understanding
women speak these in spite of themselves
a young lovers of tomorrow
do understand that insincerity is part of the love play
the Siamese cat with yellow fur lies in the sun
makes me think of a loving hand's caresses
you are walking in my heart
yor lips and velvety eyes, though distant awaken me
I'll surely love our first child
whether son or daughter
without you
how miserable I am
you still remember don't you
the golden afternoon you sat by my side
the setting sun
partly hidden by my helmet
my sunny smile is for you
in lieu of suffering people
love, though noble, is very selfish
but what can I do
when I am but a man
at thirty I love you
my love as ripe as bananas with tart-shaped dots
When autumn comes Hanoians have tears in their eyes
I met and loved you at Saigon and Vung Tau
the salty wind of the sea has been the witness of our love
we'll pass another winter
but don't you see spring is coming round again
and very soon
nature will be renewed
like our love today
we 'll be happy
we 'll be sad
my love, do not feel more rancour
the heritage of us two
in years of despair
o my love, my love
in order to break our solitude
let us cry more
and strengthen our love
o my love, my love
without me
what is left to me
and how can I go on writing
to contribute to our literary heritage
lines of poetry
of bitter mornings and afternoons
surely our country
will lose a poet
with the name Thephong
the sun has risen high
and shining straight
into my eyes
music is also fading away
in the morning café.

Cap Saint Jacques, Vietnam
23nd November,1965.

translated from the vietnamese by DAM XUAN CAN .

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