MAN AND MUSE
have expressed thousands of pages of verse
ups and downs of life I have been absorbed in?
that little bit I got life does not need,
what life wants has been impossible for me to win!
so be it! – Months after months silently
have lived and wished it a meaningful one each day.
years old, I just await going to the grave-yard
farewell to this world, a long thorny bitter way.
it that misery sets Pegasus on wing?
if it is so, why of it do I not dream?
this painful existence truth and falsehood contradict,
many lines please me amongst so many a ream?
reaches heights – waves still wail at sea;
worn out, ability exhausted, will in degeneration,
suffer agony in deep heart, laden with resentment,
pity my native country submerged in tribulation.
dusk, at night, this stranger sits missing the jungle,
past heroic period – followed by the arduous time!
take off fatigues, put on prisoner’s uniforms:
motherland! Had we committed what crime?
June nineteen seventy five, my mom saw me off;
my return, over her cold tomb green grass grew.
heart hurt, grudge blood rose to my eyes:
was the use of rhymes in such writhing rue?
what reason, Poety has not spoken up anything?
innocent – poetry is my predestined career.
and Muse have had times fallen down together:
my ballad stanzas who else is my loyal dear?
I feel distress, you offer me your smile;
I tumble, it is you who help me rise again.
over forty years – poetry since then as my lover
me on each battlefield and in each chain!
opened my eyes and mind, aroused my belief;
my hour of despair, you were my very torchlight.
thirteen unjust years you were my intimate
soothe my hunger, cold, shame in each winter night.
quilted jacket could not yield warmth as the verse
replaced a blanket to wrap up my body in disfavor.
pen is still here to tell the story to the world:
the insipid manioc, Poetry’s grace was to add savor.
can I have the heart to forget the long hard years?
reinforced my breath, my life and death lover -
for me to survive and to hold firm to my faith!
cease writing, lose my joy of life, who would cover?
bright torch, sharp sword, fresh rose, warm blanket,
breeze in this earthly stifling noon full of slime!
apologize, I owe your favour -
in awoken reflection
I heartily pledge devotion to you, Poetry, all lifetime.
Vietnamese poem by LĘ NGUYỄN
English translation by THANH-THANH