Human beings suffer.
They torture one another.
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,

But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that the farther shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing,
The utter self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
And lightening and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

Seamus Heaney (from The Cure of Troy)

Driving to Cádiz

A kind of bird like a swan but more triangular
dives and lifts behind the knives of a tractor—
five paper airplanes poking at turned dirt.

Sometimes, he wears the condom
for hours after he falls asleep. I feel carried.
His body becomes the way I think.

Not being hungry, but wanting
to halve something.

I’ve never finished with a man
without needing to repeat, in my head,
that I want him inside me.

We pass by piles of salt, orange cattle.
He asks me to rate the day.
We both know there’s nothing emptier
than recognition in a new landscape.

Taneum Bambrick

Mother’s Day

Last night
i dreamed
my son joined a gang
A gang
one million strong

This gang
these brothers
spoke Swahili
& street talk

& nobody was afraid

This gang walked around
in broad daylight
& after midnight
hair kinky crazy

& nobody pointed their pistols

This gang
they wore kente durags
around their foreheads
cowries around their necks
didn’t take no shit

& nobody was afraid

This gang
one million strong
These sons
were intelligent
like they always been

& nobody said they were not able

This gang
they were the future
poets all about the business
of being correct

& nobody was afraid

This gang
they walked the streets
in great numbers

& nobody cuddled their purses

This gang
they stood up
& spoke up
when justice showed
its true colors

& the swat team didn’t come

This gang
they went to schools
where no teachers made them feel
worth less or like criminals

& nobody cried rape

This gang
they praised god
their way
& remembered ancestors
in old as time ceremonies

& nobody was afraid

beat drums
They beat drums
& beat drums

& nobody was afraid

This gang
sang their
warrior songs
baritone voices
stirring all those
with ears bent

& nobody was afraid

Last night
i dreamed
my son joined a gang
a gang
one million strong

This morning
i woke up
said a prayer
& prepared him
for another day
in fayette county public schools

& was very much afraid

Crystal Wilkinson

The Water Witch on Invasion

It’s serious business to come on a man’s land
but when they get a hair up the wrong place
i always have my rifle ready. Sometimes
i turn the light on, so i can see who their daddies are.
Young white boys are like that sometimes, smelling
their selves, thinking they can do it cause i’m black,
cause i’m old, or just cause. Cause i’m a servant of the good Lord
is the reason i ain’t never shot one yet. I just say Git on, now.
Git on back where you come from
out into the dark
toward the place where i hear the leaves rustling.
Next most all i hear is the gravel crunch as they head
on down the road. Sometimes they come closer still,
that’s when i poke that ole .22 up toward the trees
& let it rip three times. It’s serious business
to step foot on a man’s land but sometimes
when i hear their feet traveling away from me
like spooked cattle in the dark, i can’t help but laugh.

Crystal Wilkinson

Without Me

Without me, who will take you home from school
Who will write letters for you to bring to class
Who will dry your tears when you cry
Who will take you out on rainy evenings

And when you smile during the nights,
Who will admire your white teeth
Your bright eyes are like glistening planets
When the air’s foggy, who will breathe to clear the mist
Who will hold your hands to make your cheeks turn pink
Who will gently breathe clouds into your hair…

Without me, if one day you should cry
The autumn light in your eyes will be diminished
Your hair grows longer with poet melancholy…

Without me, who will fondle you
Who will see the smile in your eyes
Who will listen to you talking about the autumn wind
Who will hold your hands and lead you to the joys of Spring
And feel your veins pulsing with life

Without me, if one day you should die
God will ask me why your hair lacks luster
Why your arms so skinny, why your eyes so dull
With head bowed in shame, I’ll be heading toward Hell.

Translated by Vương Thanh

Cần thiết

Không có anh lấy ai đưa em đi học về
Lấy ai viết thư cho em mang vào lớp học
Ai lau mắt cho em ngồi khóc
Ai đưa em đi chơi trong chiều mưa

Những lúc em cười trong đêm khuya
Lấy ai nhìn những đường răng em trắng
Đôi mắt sáng là hành tinh lóng lánh
Lúc sương mờ ai thở để sương tan
Ai cầm tay cho đỏ má hồng em
Ai thở nhẹ cho mây vào trong tóc…

Không có anh nhỡ một mai em khóc
Ánh thu buồn trong mắt sẽ hao đi
Tóc sẽ dài thêm mớ tóc buồn thơ

Không có anh thì ai ve vuốt
Không có anh lấy ai cười trong mắt
Ai ngồi nghe em nói chuyện thu phong
Ai cầm tay mà dắt mùa xuân
Nghe đường máu run từng cành lộc biếc

Không có anh nhỡ ngày mai em chết
Thượng đế hỏi anh sao tóc em buồn
Sao tay gầy, sao đôi mắt héo hon
Anh sẽ phải cúi đầu đi về địa ngục…

Nguyên Sa

Whence I ever find…

Whence I ever find
My true I?
The self, ignorance,
The self, innocence,
The muted I, amiss everlasting sorrows,
The desolated I, wandering in the poetic dreamland.

Whence I ever find…
My true I?
In the tranquility of endless streams,
In the seemingly calmness of unfathomable seas,
In the hopeless abyss of long buried conscious,
In the deep of the nights,
I found myself,
In my heartbeats,
Pulsating the relentlessly nostalgic rhythm
Of a forlorn alien reminiscing one’s long lost homeland.

Translated by Vương Thanh


Phút nào tôi chợt tìm tôi
Cái tôi ngơ ngẩn, cái tôi dại khờ
Cái tôi lạc lõng trong Thơ
Cái tôi câm lặng bơ vơ sầu dài…

Phút nào tôi chợt tìm tôi
Tìm trong thăm thẳm chơi vơi hút tìm
Tìm trong biển lặng sông im
Tìm trong đêm thấy nhịp tim ai hoài…

Tuệ Nga

The Boat Without a Destination Shore

This evening, autumn arrives with its seasonal wind
This evening, the far sky in a light mist of cloud dreams
A small boat on the river gently floats
Like a melody of love,
gently plucked with the heart strings.

The trees covered in autumn’s foggy breath
its cool wind blows through thousands of branches
From afar, the wind’s lyrics resonates across the forest pines
The song of a bittersweet love, a golden dream has died

Rushing along with the wind,
the little boat follows the bright moon.
In the Love river,
water flows in different directions.
Boat, o boat, to which destination
are you drifting towards?

Floating on the Love river,
Who knows how deep it is or how shallow.
Remember those foggy evenings,
when feelings of the heart are shared…
So much sadness since then,
the boat’s dreams flows with the river currents
Although the dream harbor may still cherish love
O Boat, do not have expectations or hopes.

The soft moonlight
A boat in the dark night
On the vast waves,
dreaming of a harbor
some place?

Translated by Vương Thanh

Con thuyền không bến

Đêm nay thu sang cùng heo may
Đêm nay sương lam mờ chân mây
Thuyền ai lờ lững trôi xuôi dòng
Như nhớ thương ai chùng tơ lòng

Trong cây hơi thu cùng heo may
Vi vu qua muôn cành mơ say
Miền xa lời gió vang thông ngàn
Ai oán thương ai tàn mơ màng

Lướt theo chiều gió
Một con thuyền, theo trăng trong
Trôi trên sông thương,
nước chảy đôi dòng
Biết đâu bờ bến

Thuyền ơi thuyền trôi nơi đâu
Trên con sông thương,
nào ai biết nông sâu?
Nhớ khi chiều sương,
cùng ai trắc ẩn tấm lòng.
Biết bao buồn thương,
thuyền mơ buồn trôi xuôi dòng

Bến mơ dù thiết tha,
thuyền ơi đừng chờ mong
ánh trăng mờ chiếu,
một con thuyền trong đêm thâu
Trên sông bao la,
thuyền mơ bến nơi đâu.

Đặng Thế Phong


A sad evening creeps into my heart
I seem to hear the sounds of autumn leaves falling…
Falling in the rain,
rich and warm like the voices of yesteryears,
singing the verses of a bygone era…

A feeling of desolation’s in the air
It silently creeps into my soul
Looking at the sad dewdrops falling in the sunset,
I suddenly miss my long ago love

Feel like I’m going crazy with yearnings
Alas! Where are you now? Where were our times together?
We keep waiting for each other
in a dream, My Love.
But will we ever,
ever see
each other again.

An autumn so long ago
seems to come back tonight
My Love had gone far away
Who will return to visit the streets of yesteryears?

We keep waiting so long for each other, My Love!
A sad mist covers the source of life’s happiness
We promise, in some distant future lives, to be together
But I will miss you so much, forever and ever…

Time’s like a bird in flight
The same months and days keep passing by
When was the season of serenity and joy in my heart?
When will my love and longings for you ever subside?

Translated by Vương Thanh

Hoài cảm

Chiều buồn len lén tâm tư
Mơ hồ nghe lá thu mưa
Dạt dào tựa những âm xưa
Thiết tha ngân lên lời xưa

Quạnh hiu về thấm không gian
âm thầm như lấn vào hồn
Buổi chiều chợt nhớ cố nhân
Sương buồn lắng qua hoàng hôn

Lòng cuồng điên vì nhớ
ôi đâu người, đâu ân tình cũ?
Chờ hoài nhau trong mơ
Nhưng có bao giờ, thấy nhau lần nữa

Một mùa thu xa vắng
Như mơ hồ về trong đêm tối
Cố nhân xa rồi, có ai về lối xưa?

Sương buồn che kín nguồn đời
Hẹn nhau một kiếp xa xôi,
nhớ nhau muôn đời mà thôi!

Thời gian tựa cánh chim bay,
qua dần những tháng cùng ngày
Còn đâu mùa cũ êm vui?
Nhớ thương biết bao giờ nguôi?

Cung Tiến

Ivory Teardrops

I stand by the windowsill, feeling sad
Seeing a love story ending, and a person’s heart’s changed
On these once happy lips,
smiles’d gone faraway…

Alas! The teardrops for my first love!
I thought it was like a dream
My lover returns to my side and silently calls my name
But on these sad eyelashes, the long days still hurriedly pass by
I’m like a withering autumn leaf, yearning for a lost love

Oh, this one teardrop
For a compassionate love, for the lover in my heart
I’ll be going to a faraway place
To weave the long days of melancholy in aloneness.

You used to follow my footsteps at the church
Our love story was soaring high, and my heart was aroused
But now, I’m just moving through the long months and days…
This life, Fate’d made me met you to fill my heart with sorrow.

Gazing at the clouds drifting away
Teardrops roll down my cheeks in grief
Pain tearing my lips but my heart still full of dreams and wishes
Alas! The ivory teardrops for my first love

Translated by Vương Thanh

Giọt nước mắt ngà

Em đứng bên song buồn
Nhìn cuộc tình trôi qua và lòng người phôi pha
Trên hai đóa môi hồng
Nụ cười đã đi xa
Ôi giọt nước mắt nào cho cuộc tình đầu

Em ngỡ như cơn mộng
Người tình về bên em và gọi thầm tên em
Nhưng trên đóa mi sầu ngày dài vẫn qua mau
Em tựa lá úa sầu cho cuộc tình dài sau

Thôi một giọt nước mắt này
Cho cuộc tình đam mê, cho người tình trăm năm
Em về đan tóc lụa là
Kết từng chuỗi ngày buồn riêng mang

Anh đi về dấu giáo đường
Cho cuộc tình bay cao, cho lòng mình xôn xao
Em cuộn theo tháng ngày dài
Kiếp này trót gặp người cho buồn

Trông áng mây u hoài
Giọt lệ nào thương vay, tình đành tràn mi cay
Đau thương xé môi gầy mà lòng vẫn mơ say
Ôi giọt nước mắt ngà cho cuộc tình đầu tiên

Ngô Thụy Miên

Crystal Sunshine

Is it the color of sunshine or the color of your eyes
It’s autumn with rain falling, I’m holding your hands, so soft and shy
The sun’s shadow falling early on the terrace this evening
And then some day, the clouds will be flying up high in the sky.

The sunshine’s away to let sorrow creeps into your hair
Your face’s pale, with a look of wistful melancholy
Those olden days, why the autumn leaves didn’t turn yellow,
and why the sunshine hadn’t entered into your eyes.

You enter the park with silent footsteps
The wind and the clouds have returned to the forest
The grass and trees suddenly light up with the color of sunshine
You enter the park with wondering round eyes
Sunshine’s sparkling like golden crystal gems
My soul suddenly feels a deep melancholy rising…

The evening has entered the garden of your eyes
Autumn comes and goes away many times
Thousands of trees lighting up like candles in two rows
To welcome the sunshine into your eyes
(The color of sunshine’s now in your eyes)

Translated by Vương Thanh

Nắng thủy tinh

Màu nắng hay là màu mắt em
Mùa thu mưa bay cho tay mềm
Chiều nghiêng nghiêng bóng nắng qua thềm
Rồi có hôm nào mây bay lên.

Lùa nắng cho buồn vào tóc em
Bàn tay xanh xao đón ưu phiền
Ngày xưa sao lá thu không vàng
Và nắng chưa vào trong mắt em

Em qua công viên bước chân âm thầm
Ngoài kia gió mây về ngàn
Cỏ cây chợt lên màu nắng
Em qua công viên mắt em ngây tròn
Lung linh nắng thủy tinh vàng
Chợt hồn buồn dâng mênh mang

Chiều đã đi vào vườn mắt em
Mùa thu qua tay đã bao lần
Ngàn cây thắp nến lên hai hàng
Để nắng đi vào trong mắt em
(Màu nắng bây giờ trong mắt em)

Trịnh Công Sơn