Poetry Porch: Poetry

Two Poems about Con Son Mountain,* Viet Nam
Co-Translated from the Vietnamese
by Fred Marchant and Nguyen Ba Chung


              AFTER THE WAR
                                              by Nguyen Trai (1380-1422)**

Ten years away from what I knew and loved as home.
I return to pine and chrysanthemum grown rampant,
to patient streams and trees wondering where I've been.

I am covered in dust.
There was nothing else I could do.

Now that I am home, my life seems nothing but a dream.
The war may be over, I may be alive, but I want nothing
more than a cloud-tipped mountain, good tea, a stone pillow.


             by Tran Dang Khoa (1956-  )***

                       I stand on the summit of Con Son,
                       the smell of the rice fields woven into my clothes.

                       I pound rice at the edge of my yard,
                       the wind from the mountain playing in my hair.

Copyright © 2008 by Fred Marchant and Nguyen Ba Chung.

Notes on the translations:

* Con Son Mountain is approximately fifty kilometers south of Ha Noi. It inspired both of these poets. It is close to the village where Tran Dang Khoa grew up, and it is where Nguyen Trai often retreated to in order to write, and where his ashes were scattered after his death by assassination.

** Nguyen Trai was a poet, a general, and a courtier. His poems are among the earliest poems in vernacular Vietnamese. He remains one of the legendary poet-generals who helped create Viet Nam as a nation independent of the Chinese empire.

*** Tran Dang Khoa was a child prodigy of a poet whose work, during the years of the American war, became widely known throughout what was then North Viet Nam. An acclaimed memoirist in recent years, he presently lives and writes in Ha Noi.