PoetryWorld Literature

The Street Singer – Poetry from Vietnam

Eminent poet and writer Nguyen Ngoc Tung from the land of Blue Dragon shares his 12 poems.

Nguyen Ngoc Tung

Poet Nguyen Ngoc Tung - Vietnam -Sindh CourierBorn 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.

***

The conversation

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

Personalities…

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

Restless sleeps

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)

***

Huong Canh

“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

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*

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)

 

 

 

 

 

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