Nguyen Ngoc Tung
Born in 1950, in Vinh Phuc province of Vietnam, Nguyen Ngoc Tung is former Chairman of Vinh Phuc Culture and Arts Association. He has 13 books of poetry and prose to his credit. He has won 9 literary awards and is the member of Vietnam Writers’ Association; Vietnam Ethnic Minority Culture and Arts Association; Vietnam Journalists’ Association, Vietnam Association of Architects and the Association of Culture and Arts of Vinh Phuc province.
The Street Singer
In covid-19 seasons, the streets are empty
The market is sparse, in the afternoon it’s rainy and sticky
Your street singing dragging along the roadside
The old speaker dragging the lost legs.
The singing of pity people like pity yourself
“Oh the gourd is pity for the zucchini together…”
Pouring the sadness to the deep alley
Pouring on me, in the hearts of many passersby.
Rustled falling leaves
Small change from hands of people falling, falling
Bamboo hat catching the rain with shed tears
Can tears soothe your pain?
The love does not discriminate between the rich and the poor
The kindness is not measured by money value
Small coin sending you less hardship
The hoarse voice choking the whole winter afternoon.
The song burning my heart with invisible fire
Wandering to hold upside down hearts
Every coin sharing the love and the care
The Xam* voice still echoing in the long street.
*Xẩm is a type of Vietnamese folk music which was popular in the Northern region of Vietnam.
The way back of purple chrysopogon aciculatuses
When I was away from the mother’s arms
I found myself precarious standing in mid of the vastness
Half my life permeates the remotest corners of the earth
The mother’s love warms the winter nights.
The mother raised me with lots of tears
Cassava, potatoes, soy sauce, so difficult
The mother wore the sun, washes the rain, season after season
The thin shadow accumulated the body for me.
Spicy betel nuts, oh yellow betel nuts
The mother stayed up late, pity for the thin seeds
Whole life of callous hands, whole life of flipping the soil
Hoping to give me the best.
Worried dawns, tired sunsets
Sad lullabies, the stork body, the cauldron fate
The mother is the river that cooled off my life
The fragrant season that fills the fields.
The bird’s wings are thin, the horizon is endless
A day is away from home, whole life is away from mother
I am still a drop of mother’s milk that cradles since the baby
The way back is full of purple chrysopogon aciculatuses.
In front of him was the manuscript
Smoke strokes of battles
Fresh mud strokes
The strokes of rolling rivers and lakes
Characters conversing with the writer
Writing and deleting
Deleting and then writing again
The field of words plowing hard…
A fate entering the literature work
Words creating forms and shapes
Just the conversation making sweat
It’s him, but it’s not really him
The characters swimming in the writer’s reflections.
The author, the companion
The stirring pen
The characters drinking wine with the writer
In argument-to-end meals
Sometimes quietly as if troops are about to go to a war
Sometimes it’s like Lên đồng*.
Conflict and liberation
Rebel and gentleness
Raising a character is as hard as raising a child
A blue eye is not in the eye
People remembering characters
Anyone remembering the writer!?
* Lên đồng is a ritual practiced in Vietnamese folk religion, in which followers become spirit mediums for various kinds of spirits (wiki)
“Who is coming to buy a vase of Huong Canh
Who is going to send to me and her” *
A verse from the village foundation
The people love, the land love, calling back earnestly.
The homeland is deep with the country love
How much hardship are in the early afternoons
Your hands turning the sunshine, brushing the rain
Flower strokes, the ceramic face, the poetic soul and the village soul.
You go to brew the land of Lo Cang
Let me sharpen the ceramic and bring it to bake with you
One day becoming the wife and the husband
For thousands of years, the Canh River has not changed its course.
Whose boat docking at the river
If you come over, I will bridge the rainbow for you
Loving each other, awaking for whole lifetime
Listening to the soil to eat the fire, singing lyrics for hundreds of years.
*To Huu’s poem
July, the sky is full of ripe clouds in the horizon
The fields are sunny and yellow dry
The untidy rice is fragrant with the wind
The mother harvests the ripe rice with white sweat.
The father went to the battlefield, I was still in the cradle
The mother lulled me, the moon worn out the hammock
The forehead was deeply imprinted under the sunshine and rain
Dark eyes measured the remoteness.
The mother hard-working early in the field
Tears and sweat diving into the grains of rice
The whole mother life, soaked her feet in mud
The curved back, the rice bending.
July, centropus sinensis calling each other
In the far island, I know the season has come
Loving my mother alone to harvest the storm
At night, whispering the incense smoke.
Yellow chrysanthemums, chrysanthemums offering to the altar
Mother’s hands trembling with father’s name
Storks wings flying over the martyrs cemetery
Carrying the tears sparkling the field.
Thung Market (Box market) does not see any box
Copper pots gather to the village
It is the fate of ovens
The sound of hammers reverberating in the mornings and afternoons.
The husband handling and wife hammering
Loving each other, the plow and the hammer also following each other
The rice husk, the sickle, the rice has turned yellow
Chiseling, carving the soul of the village.
Who buys the cutlery to come over?
Thung market has made an appointment for a ferry
Sharp knifes of Thung Mach, buy it
Making betel nuts into phoenix wings to please each other.
Thung Market across the deep river
Why do you drop the bamboo hat over the bridge, the wind blowing?
If loving each other, stay here
With me to blow the box, cast plows, forge knives.
*Thung Market, Ly Nhan Commune, Vinh Tuong
The carpentry village
The carpentry village has existed for many generations
The flying phoenix, the wind bending dragon
Following me in the house outside the alley
The scent of wood is so village fragrant.
The upper village, on the under wharf, the wooden raft going back
The husband and the wife stretching their legs and pulling the saw to cut
Pulling the horizon, pushing the corners of the sea
Sawing and chiseling, carving and working hard.
The dream, the traditional trick
Carvings, engraves the sad and happy strokes
The hidden and appeared strokes, the interlocking flowers and buds
Quietly the soul of the village for a thousand years.
White hair for a lifetime of artists
Chiseled callous hands, tired swing arms
The people of the carpenter village are as truthful as a wood core
Only the oven is rich in sawdust and scraps.
The carpentry village existed for many generations, the times have changed
Mornings and afternoons, the wood market going in and out
Who knows the world cycle?
Cutting off, sawing, becoming the life story…
The forging village
Coming back to the dyke slope of the village
Heard low and high sounds
Resounding anvil and hummer beats
Dear familiar village music.
The husband is the “head hammer” to lead
The wife is the rhythmic sledgehammer
The sun is full red of embryo steel
Perspirations are wet down their cheeks.
The arcane of their ancestor
Giving them a trick for steel forging
The cutlery here is as sharp as water
The brand of Ly Nhan forging village*.
A long time spearing
Forging the weapons against the enemy
How I can trap the mice now
Exterminating the swarm of human rodents.
Every day forging the scissors and knives
Whole life training the morality
Who said being close to fire burning the face?
Through the fire, the human heart brightening.
The concern with my older sister
I’m going to get married tomorrow
The two bamboo baskets staying to burden the sunshine and rain
I’m going to the flower car tomorrow
Dai bucket* put aside, you changed to Song basket.
I’m going to my husband’s house tomorrow
The embroidered double pillow given by you
The red flower and thread joy
But how many storms in your own fate?
Which day will you get married?
Which day the fate coming or not… which day?!
[The bucket is a tool used to slap water into the rice field, the bucket is made of bamboo. Song bucket has a semi-cylindrical shape with a handle, used for one person to slap water to the field, Dai bucket has a rope, used for 2 people to slap water to the field.]
The rain sprinkling sunshine on branches
The first rain of the season has a little lovely sunshine
The sunshine leading the rain to wander streets in the afternoon
You are back after long days
Drizzling, the rain sprinkling sunshine on branches.
The sweet rain adding the leaves more green
The sunset wetting the curled eyelids
The rain passing through my fluttered soul
The heart sobbing the heart.
What raindrops in the bottom of your eyes
Thirsty poetry, my heart burning
That rain coming here, this rain going there
Missing the long-distance afternoon, looking forward.
The rain spreading my way
The street is fanciful as embroidered as painting
The passionate scent of alstonia scholaris in the small alley
When the two of us sheltered from the rain.
The rain keeps raining for the soil meeting the sky
The rain doesn’t stop, doesn’t stop raining…
The autumn eyes
Which train come to Vinh Yen
Meeting the autumn, hold you back
Vi Thanh wharf, a rainy afternoon
Still waiting for you from the arising moon.
Dam Vac is dreamy and misty
The temple bell knocking the falling sunset
Lap slope entangling your hurried steps
Bbombax ceiba burning red with the love story.
The old road bringing me back to past years
Looking for a verse that missing you at that time
As in here a passionate kiss
Anchored me, the autumn eyes.
Dear Vinh Yen, another train has passed again
Will you come to Dam Vac this season?
The flower on the hill bewildered the silver smoke
Suddenly touched the so distant sky.
How much sadness and happiness passed
I’m still waiting for you to come back one day
In mid of the new sunshine high-rise city
You come back in the autumn memory…
The countryside market
The countryside market is to buy and sell local goods
Gathering from gardens, gleaning from fields early mornings and afternoons
Sponge gourds are bitter, lemons are sour
Vegetables mixing with the grass, crab baskets with mud.
You go to sell the drizzle basket
I’m back to find the very far afternoon
Many sellers, less buyers
The countryside market is full of messy things.
Who are you speaking softly?
So that the pannier buyers become confused, the cribriform buyers become dumb
Zucchini leaves you remove the cover
Don’t like buying plums, eating apricots with the charm love.
The countryside market finding out the old days
Potatoes stewed with small fish, crab colocasia gigantea soups
Bitter spicy sour sweet used to be experienced
We come back to measure the tears of the past time…
(Translated into English by Khanh Phuong)