Stories retold only after 40 years

Story 1. Running away from diseases
Translation by Joseph Dovinh

Mother took my brothers and sisters and I into hiding
in sixty-three. Nowhere far, mother took us
to an aunt’s house three streets away. Mother
said: let’s sleep over at the lonely aunt’s, I

knew that mother was taking us to run away from diseases.
Father retold: in times past, our maternal grandfather piggy-backed him
running far far away. These days the ham-
lets can not go anywhere. I remember

my sister with one hand holding tightly to her dhai dress
ragged, president Ngo forbade the Chams to wear,
with the other arm holding onto the youngest boy
crying two rows of tears. Nowadays the youngest boy

is in the sixth grade, the dhai dress no one forbids to wear, my sister
has tossed it away a long time ago, the strategic war
diseases are no more. A story retold only after 40
years.

Story 2. Eating words

I have a friend who is afflicted with the disease of eating
words. Nothing else, he eats
morning noon afternoon, he chews gnashingly.
His wife cried all of these two years.

He eats all sorts of light and heavy things
Nietzsche Confucius to Sagan he
eats habitually. He eats
slow meticulously. When I was still in shorts

i saw an old man in my village
eating the moon with raw water for lunch.
Before that, my father retold, my maternal great grandather
running away from a Minh Menh mandate had read

the book of rituals, burned through the poetry of Glang Anak
mixed kids urine to drink instead of
eating words. He lived over a hundred years old,
my father said, such strange eating habbits

unique to each generation no matter where.
Chams never cease to have the word-eating
gene. His wife cried why exactly it had to be
her husband.

*
Đã in trong Blank Verse, An Anthology of Vietnamese New Formalism Poetry, USA, 2006.

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