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Manoa 14.1 (2002) 17-18

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Two Poems

Du Tu Le

When I Die Take My Body to the Sea

when I die, take my body to the sea
an exile's life must end without a grave
buried in a strange land a corpse may not dissolve
free the soul to find its way home
when I die, take my body to the sea
the ebbing tide will carry it away
across the ocean to the land of my birth
where bamboo hedges remain forever green
when I die, take my body to the sea
don't close the eyelids yet though, please
let me turn one last time towards home
who knows, my body might arrive there someday
when I die, take my body to the sea
don't for a single second pity me
so many drowned become food for fish
what can one more twisted corpse matter
when I die, take my body to the sea
send me home to catch sight of my children
send me home to see the tears in their eyes—
now sadder than even the darkness of night
when I die, take my body to the sea
on the way sing me the old nation's anthem
for so long no one has bothered to sing it
it's become a ghost tune
when I die, the sadness will die with me
an exile's life, true to the soul to the end [End Page 17]

A Poem for My Young Lover

a tired horse gallops up a mountain in the sad night wind
a spring meanders lonely in one corner of the sky
you, sweet breath of a time uncorked
what memory can I hold on to—what flowing hair, parted in two
a young squirrel stakes its fate on a strange mountain
and I, a forest bird, wings wearied with constant wounds
a scent of green grass cools ivory footprints
you, as blackboard & white chalk, our lives broken
a hundred butterflies swim home along the same course
a spring overflowing will have to leave its source
you, slender silk dress, more slender than a hill silhouette
O forest, how many years the trees waiting
you a pure and spotless thing in my dust-filled life
call me back to see the simple sunlight
you, just coming of age, your love a lure of waterfalls
pity me, a horse astray, cut off from the herd

Translations by Kevin Bowen and Nguyen Ba Chung


Du Tu Le is the given name of Le Cu Phach. He was born in 1942 in Ha Nam Province, moved to the South between 1954 and 1955, and now lives in the United States. In 1973, he received the first prize in literature given by the Republic of South Viet Nam. One of the most prolific poets living in exile, he has written over thirty works of poetry and prose. Some of his recent collections of poetry are Looking at Each Other, We See Mountains and Rivers,Love Poems,What Cries/On the Other Side of the Weather, and Reflection in the Looking Glass. Many of his poems have been set to music.



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