New “Ho Truong” (*)

ngày 25.04.20

Just then… some thirty-three a year
I look back on those green times dear
Since “nineteen seventy five”
Time has passed so fast into the past to dive.
When it seemed in a flowery summer night dream to hive. Contemplating myself in the mirror, how strange:
Gray hair, sunken cheeks, wrinkled skin – what change! Suddenly in my heart many anxieties rise up
My innards contract in a bitter cup
When my country’s image glimmers in sight
Tears ready to overflow in such sad plight.
How intimate it was the “thee-and-thou”
How lovable our karma once to be soldiers under a vow, But now everything has turned to eternally flee
I alone in this place am still remembering all ye
Mostly on this year’s commemoration
The landmark of time – thirty three years of botheration Still reminisce about each bird that swiftly took wing Leaving behind country and even families, just flying.
I feel pity for myself this cuss
I take compassion on ourselves, all of us
But do not grudge being born in this century as wrong.
I now have lived peacefully in the States so long
Seeing the sun set I regret my youth at twilight.
Oh friends! thou and thee

I again remember ye
The old buddies who have once faced dangers with me. I’ve felt full of rancor in exile full of tears
But this life gradually dries up every time April nears Tonight suddenly is abundant the wine
Outside it is pitch-black along the skyline
Though late, drinking alone, this vigil I am to keep Reciting the Ho Truong poem in a singsong voice deep Holding the bottle to the four directions stretching out I still do not know where to pour for a drinking bout Where is my each close chum
More than thirty years dumb!
Only in a foreign country can I find out the truth, my stand “Each human being has only one fatherland”
As for us, how come?
Buried under the cold ground was the fate of some, Drowned in the deep sea, that of others;
A few scattered at the ends of the earth, in smothers. Whatever their lives, their wish nobody can ever foil, They never forget and abandon their ancestors’ native soil. Sometimes someone said that we are old-aged already
So I tried to address ye as “you” solemn and steady
But my voice I still thought it some other’s lisp anyhow And guffawed … pitying the “thee-and-thou”
Ho Truong wine, if ye still think of me and us henceforth Please raise your cups even in East, West, South, North Though we are like an oil-lamp burning out its last fire
May it be a minute of brilliance before the time we expire (**).

Translation by Thanh-Thanh

(*) Poem’s name “Hồ Trường” of Nguyễn Bá Trác
(**) from poem “Giục Giã” of Xuân Diệu:
“Rather have a glorious minutes, then suddenly go dark
Better than glimmering for all night.”