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Phạm Hồ Thu
Thứ hai ngày 18 tháng 2 năm 2019 2:31 PM

Beethoven Night

Phạm Hồ Thu

The Pathéthique piano sonata begins. Thanks to you, Beethoven, your brilliant notes surround the two of us and our friends with intense, life-affirming melody, covering this kiss with the murmur of a river flowing, with the flapping of a thousand-year-old giant bird, the stirring thump of a collapsed mountain, the silence of empty space, the forever whispers praising human kind—

Please do not ask why I kiss these sad eyes, this sad forehead forever reserved for me. I will say: This kiss is forever for you.

Please do not ask why I have become harder than other women, weaker than other women, softer than other women, more pliantly coy than other women in your tightening embrace and your petrifying kiss.

Can we coax back the sounds of the guitar flowing by the autumn river from that time completely hidden in our youth? Can we coax back the hurly-burly of the boys and girls of our time, they who once raised their voices singing with us but who never returned?

Can we coax back the tears of the girl you loved and boy we knew, they who said good-bye to us, leaving for the front, never to meet us again?

We search for the old smiles, the old looks, the old melodies. Who can tell us why this smile, this kiss, this sadness have become artifacts?

How fragile this world of ours-this life and death. We do not scream, but we must love a thousand times more to tell tomorrow that we have lived, we have loved, we have cherished this life ten thousand times more before departing—

The Pathéthique plays on. Thanks to you, Beethoven, your brilliant melody celebrates a day Love returned.

Translated by Nguyễn Bá Chung with Lady Borton

A Melody of Autumn

A dewdrop falls quietly behind the blinds. I suddenly realize autumn has arrived: it belongs especially to me—an autumn full of dreams. I lift up and hold in my palm a yellow leaf.

I have passed through autumns overflowing with bitterness and joy. No one can take your place—a man always standing in the shadows. The ways of autumn bear your footprints.

A dewdrop falls silently behind the blinds. Autumn quietly floods me with tranquility. O, if I could laugh, if I could cry, if only I could lean my head against your chest and listen to the breath of autumn.

Like a sleepwalker, I stretch my hands to greet the stars, to greet the autumn dew that no one can see. After a long time, my hands grow moist from the duet of teardrops and autumn dew blending their plaintive music.

Translated by Nguyễn Bá Chung with Lady Borton

Passion for Peace

How can we find peace again

My youth on slopes of white sand

Bare footprints by the river in early morning

The winter's fire Grandmother had already lit

The flames burning as the cock crowed to awaken dawn

How can we find peace again

Every morning birds in the village sang

A declaration of love was as succulent as honey

As unpredictable as the flight of birds

How can we find peace again

At twenty, knapsacks over your shoulders, you went to war

We kissed the footprints you left

We wept over the bare footprints you soldiers left behind

How can we find peace again

We believed wholeheartedly in true horizons

We overcame the trickeries of human beings

The special one we loved far away was waiting for us—

How can we find peace again

Mothers sang lullabies to their children without dropping a tear

Pity the storks in those folk songs with so much bad luck,

The boats that missed the rhythm of love

I passed through those troubling months and years

I passed through days on the battlefield

We are parched with a passion for peace

Can't you see this in his melancholic gaze?

Translated by Nguyễn Bá Chung with Lady Borton

Distant Lullaby

Rockabye, sleep sweetly, my Love

Let's meet each other in our dreams

Rockabye, so much bitterness has passed

News from the river is still at the pier, the afternoon news is still tipsy here

I lull away the chilly northwest wind

When indifferent, don't wait; when enamored, keep on waiting

Sleep sweetly, unwinding a poetic line

For a thousand years yet never waning

Sleep sweetly, despite your life of longing

Although far away, you dream your own direction

Sleep sweetly amidst songs and laughter

We miss each other, savoring words of love

May the last rays of the afternoon light

Carry me with a heart of love to you

Rockabye, O rockabye

The wind carries echoes of my distant lullaby

September, 1999

Translated by Nguyễn Bá Chung with Lady Borton

Ancient Hà Nội

How I miss that ancient Hà Nội

Those mossy roofs once thought hackneyed in old poetry

This afternoon the black coots flapping their wings

Recreated the spirit of that moss

The hurrying tram jangling along

Carrying my youth to Bưởi Market

To Hà Đông and its silk villages

Then returning me to Hà Nội's streets

With flowers and leaves to color my soul

The women more ancient than all those ancient seasons

A wink, soft and languorous

The "Yes" as gentle as a breeze

Who can hear this and fail to understand happiness

Carried throughout one's life

Rhythmical afternoon roads

Scent of Pacific walnut flowers in March, of milk flowers in August

The hyacinth hides its face

After it whispers

How I miss that ancient Hà Nội

The man I love with utmost sincerity

Offers me whispers of love like a knife slicing rocks

Nothing can change that

He can blow into me a quiet sadness

A quiet melody of the mossy streets

For the autumn I love, the summer I miss

The velvet like the love of beauty

So that I can remain forever an ancient woman

Like a dewdrop, like this wistful reminiscence.

August-October 2012

Translated by Nguyễn Bá Chung with Lady Borton

Song About Fire

You have arrived—Greetings to you, my Love, my Fire. With the two of us tonight, there are thousands of rising stars, thousands of cheers, thousands of flowers just now in bloom, thousands of streams babbling as they reach the sea on their own.

You have found me—the woman who often cried, still dreaming at an age when dreams have died. Your love blows into tiny, living streams to reawaken a woman to her softness, her shyness. She will offer you passionate songs—songs you have looked for and could not find.

I have found you—a wonderful, lonely man—a Tree of Virtuosity among bushes of thorns. Standing there a while, you began to sing. Who can tell how generous your heart is, how gentle you are. Your heart is a flame of warmth chasing away the darkness. Your embrace is tight enough to make me weep and say: "You have arrived. Greetings, my Love, my Fire."

We came together from two paths on the same route—the road of bitter, searing destiny. We have walked on lonely paths to the place where we are no longer afraid, reaching the days when we both see both our tears. We suddenly see ourselves tiny before each other, gigantic before each other, safe and secure for each other, smiling for each other, weeping for each other—

"You have arrived: Greetings, my Love, my Fire—" This refrain of the woman you love has been hidden in the depths of her heart. She has passed through ten thousand shards of bitterness, waiting for the day this song comes into words. And now she will sing for you—a song just for you, for you alone to hear, for you alone to keep.

Tomorrow, that song will wing to the sky and tell the distant stars that there exists a loving heart, which has cried out and sung: "You have arrived: Greetings, my Love, my Fire—"

February, 1999

Translated by Nguyễn Bá Chung with Lady Borton