***     Paris. w i t h o u t thi vũ

A poem in Vietnamese by Vũ Hoàng Thư
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

you have returned to that place
hands idle and free
smiling without a care
your grey hair woven with the white clouds
with the drifting tranquillity of the Seine
endlessly free flowing water
your shadow is the sunlight
flying into flowers
“blooms of sunlight” (1)
the dreamy white light of the song of impermanence in the middle of the night
in the dark the sound of a passing car wakes me up
my head is empty of thought through the jet lag
jittery feet waiting for the first light after a night in Limeil-Brévannes
anticipating the late bloom of the queen of the night
the rise and fall of rows of text along the endless library bookshelves
the constant sound of shifting gears of the print press churning out on Gennevilliers’ news
Quê Mẹ is awake through the night
working through the sweat
the deep sound screams from the South China Sea
what choice was there left
glory to socialism or face an ocean of waiting darkness
the trembling injustice and anger of all living soul
a wavering moon gate on Rue Jaffeux
the deep lyric of the night “a whisper amidst Paris” (2)
please speak up, call for
“a boat for Vietnam”
a boat for the boat people
oh dearest of oceans glowing at the foot of the horizon “an island of light” (3)
Paris. without Thi Vũ
my memories returned to the climbing gourd vines at Quê Mẹ
the nights singing at Quán Trúc in the European city light
the steep incline scattered with paintings in Montmartre
the cafes on the sidewalk
the strong shots of espresso in the streets of Saint-germain-des-prés
a sleepless Vietnamese without a country in Paris
Thi Vũ
poetic pondering
drifting scents of the heart of a flower call home

I’m walking through Paris in the sombre afternoon light
the clouds drifting by as grey and blinding as the century
I called your name
as though you’re still here
still here
downhill to Rue de la Bûcherie Shakespeare bookstore
you were the pungent scent of books across a sky full of poetry
the sudden odd scent of lavender
“like white clouds in brilliant sunlight across the horizon
the calling of the heart’s desire” (4)
Who could there be such a reality?
Paris. without Thi Vũ
when lines of poetry grew wings took to the sky
dancing the dance of immortality
or will a moonflower bloom from the soil steeped in an unexpected shower?
Thi Vũ
“a tiny fragile flower
not once did you stop blooming yet already it’s an endless lifetime” (4)
you are missed, beyond this lifetime!

Vũ Hoàng Thư, born Võ Anh Tuấn 1949 in Hue, Vietnam. The poet and translator, head editor of bienkhoi.com currently live in Fountain Valley, California.

Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the blogger, poet, and translator, was born in 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. The pharmacist currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

There's magic in translating a body of work from one language to another.

1 comment

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: