CRITIQUE OF LIFE, POET IN SOCIETY


THẾ PHONG



1

In this century, the life of a man
in a week, small country
Still leaves much to be desired
(The world broke in two or three long time ago
There is little we can do about it )

For an ordinary man
it would take him a long time
Before he can have a cool look at himself and his society
He must have a wife and kids
just to be called a responsible citizen
I live as bravely as a big tree in the forest
Braving rain and thunder and all...
Today
as yesterday
still without a family
I feel pity for all, for everybody
in this wretched land
This society
is full of injustice
It must be destroyed by fire and water
Only twice
did I weep
In 1945 when the Revolution broke out
and the day I lost my Father
Dear friends
I lived enough
I 've suffered enough
In this stagnant society
am I needed?
What can I do
besides writing poems?
I give this critique of life
out of concern for it
I want to be true to myself
and to others...
Why are there more prisons than schools
more cops than people out in streets
(These poems
have just been unearthed
To be put under the glittering sun)

Well, in this society
monks and spies look the same
Poets only produce what has been ordered
The sky today is cloudless
I feel like crying now
But isn't it much better
to suffer lilently

2

I grew up with the midst in the highland
In my home place the straight
standing trees outnumbered spikes
My first love left me
when the Revolution broke out
O mountains and forests
I am still alone
Is my mind being taken away from me
I have been over the abyss before
My days
have been full of sweat and tears
The thousand love poems
I've written
are not love poems
I've learned sorrow
since I first went to the graveyard
Just to pluck a flower
on an unknown tomb
My parents left me
a long time ago
Far from me, with no one to weep for them
In my childhood house
on that highland
I've only the sun as friend
(Apart from passing girls
as silent as shadows)

I've grown up
with love since that time
Now that I'm a man
I'm not too concerned with it
Love
pure, noble love
does not mean a thing for me
Past memories
make me truly sad
But I've become so mature
and so much wiser
I've realized my lot
ob being in this land
Let me be without memory.
This century
rugged land far exceeds fertile part
I grew up in difficult times
I refuse to hear soothing words
Life is stripped of liberty
Every line of poetry should be a bullet
To bring down walls of calumny and hyprocrisy
Look!
Even the grass we grow in public gardens is imported from Europe
I feel estranged in my country
and turn a foreign visitor
Let me evade the world I never made
When I cast a glance at the desolate expanse...
The best way to travel is to walk by onself
I choose Autumn, pine forest and sad sunshine;
I give up writing poetry
and will not torture myself anymore
Do me a favor, 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
O wife, sons and daughters!
Tomorrow morning
w e' ll wake up early
set out to groww vegetables
Outside the hedge
near the farm gate
We'll put up a board
" Tresspassers Will Be Prosecuted"
In all languages of the world.

Saigon November 8-12, 1963

POSTSRIPT
These Uplipting Poems * - with the exception of two- were written during the stormy days before the oppressive regime of President Ngo Dinh Diem was brought down in late 1963. A full decade has passed. I sadly realize how I have changed but Vietnam itself is little changed since that and it is still the Waste Land.\
Now I must go through darkness again before a new day is born.
We publish this collection of poems with the hope that our country will soon can change for the better.
All of us should be better.
And I will write happier poems.
Saigon Vietnam
September 7, 1974. THEPHONG.
--------
*Original tittle: THƠ LÀM LỚN DẬY CON NGƯỜI
Đại Nam văn hiến Books, Saigon 1964.

translated from the vietnamese by DAM XUAN CAN .











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