The Start of Starting

In this difficult beginning
Only a beckoning, stranger
Than that of a sea-cobra
Or of a tropical will-o’-the wisp
Or of a rejected ascetic’s unretributed soul,
Could be expected for once to awaken our desertified souls.

The beckoning of the dangling arm from a hollowed statue of Shiva
Of half a smile from a damaged apsara
Of the inclining towers of Yang Pakran
Of the bend in the Lu River in sudden drought.

Only a strange voice,
The howling of the Southern Wind stretching through the hills in thirst of leaves
The choked murmuring of insects in a clearing
The sweeping of naked feet returning at midnight
The wordless language of an anonymous poet dying young,
Could be expected to wake up our insensitive bodies into awareness.

A very bright face has just left us
Intransigent to the point of hermeticism
He could see the things invisible to us
He could hear the things inaudible to us
We did not understand. And he left us.

Dark attempts have plenty of opportunities to spring up
Winter rain makes them darker
And also the tropical sun
No mysterious force is willing to condescend to enlighten them any more
Ideas of parasites.

Squeezing to the last drop of tears /
he wept over the sunset civilization
The coward clouds ran for refuge
And stole into darker and heavier clouds.

Alone he stood and wept
Courageous and solitary as a wonder.

The things I wrote on paper might be only the corpses of boring letters
Added to a filled-up world
Added to ashes and dust
Ashes and dust make the meaning of the earth
Merely ashes and dust.

We are still in the futile game of chance
We are thrown from one hand to another
From one ricefield to another
From one street corner to another
Until a stereotyped poetic feeling could shove our souls into imbalance.

After the last furrow he entered the light
How could we understand?

He has returned
The feet shake our black slumber
The feet move smoothly like the blades of paddy /
in inverse proportion to our destiny
The feet will come / even though nobody knows when and where
Not to talk about debts / but call for potential power
Not to demand from the past / but to awake the future
Until the gloomiest hand stretches out
Without fear of lack of warmth from the horizon of response.

In this difficult beginning
We are still the outsiders
The antiques beyond the rim of life of things in formation
We are measured and counted / sometimes repainted
We are rubbed on the head / touched on the cheeks
We are put in storage / sometimes on display
People talk as if we are in full existence / still it seems we are absent.

I think about my father
He piggybacked me through the starlit sky
He said: In the old days with you on my shoulders my burden is lightened
I understand that sky today has just opened to me a space of light.

In this difficult beginning.

The vowels and consonants form the words that I pick up. From
The layer of pebbles and bricks in ruins. From
The Allegory of the Land
After the bath / after the Purification Festival
linga lingal lingam liwa langal
Still delayed
As the desire for another death.

The peasant leaves the furrow half-finished
In wait for the engagement of the words
We or they are growing old?

Solemnly before the challenging sun, the priest tries to spell
He pronounces each word lowly
The spelling is repeated again and again
nearly all his life until it becomes worn-out

our letters are clean
our mouths are clean
our land is clean
our spirits are clean

Let us learn singing praise and forgiving, oh my brothes and sisters
Singing the expatriats / and the stayers
Singing the comforting wife / also the all-time grumbling one
Singing the loyal lover / silent before the slippery one
Singing the sharing friend / and forgiving the coward one running in front
Singing the useful enemy / and leaving the table of the so demoralizing little enemy.

The beginning is as easy as a children’s arrangement of toys
With clear rules / simple words
In this holy hour of this morning
Under the sky of tolerance
After the first furrow
The original poem bursts out and sprouts up
in the spiritual fields already purified
Bản Việt ngữ của Nguyễn Tiến Văn.

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