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Manoa 14.1 (2002) 54-55

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Three Poems

Lam Thi My Da

Cat In the Window

Often, late at night, when life feels heavy
I think of poetry, light, almost weightless
When I cannot sleep, I lie down in silence
And think of other people, other days
Suddenly a cat appears in the window
Green eyes staring out like green stars
He sits in the window, silent as a statue
Carved against the shining starry sky
Once again, I love this life without limit
No longer worried and sad, I'm light and free
Through the window, the cat looks out at the sky
Looks out, like the clearest, gentlest poem

Cricket Song

Please let me go through life as a cricket
Singing a tiny song in the tender grass
Opening my eyes to shining dewdrops
My words ringing like little bells
Sunbeams gather bell-sounds in the grass
I gather myself in my nest, waiting for night
Sincere, I sing my timeless song
Burrowing in my peaceful green carpet
Don't capture me, don't capture me, my friend
I don't want to be heroic, I don't want glory
People have forced me to charge ahead
In many mortal battles with countrymen [End Page 54]
But I just want to bow my head
Although I've won, I'm wounded inside
My friend there, broken foot, burned body—
My friend's wounds, my own wounds ooze
Ignorant people cheered me on
So please just let me be a cricket
Singing transparent words in the silent grass
Looking at silver stars as my song echoes through the field
Drinking in the sweet sun like honey
Please just let me be a cricket
Lying down in the green cradle where I began
While the dying day releases a single dewdrop
That trickles into my soul as a kiss, a tear

Woman Wearing Black

A woman walks down the road
Spring wind drapes her shoulders
She utters one small phrase
Just so she may hear herself
Just so the wind may hear
There is nothing to regret, she thinks
Flowers and grass grow free, under her feet
There is nothing difficult, she thinks
Step by light step she glides past
Why doesn't she wear purple or pink?
She wears nothing but black
Black clothes like a coffin
Shrouding all her scattered mistakes
She cannot bury the flickering images
The ones she intended to bury
Perhaps her aching heart is the earth
Where that heavy coffin is laid
Oh woman, life is not like that
Why do you foolishly bury yourself?
If you look up at the distant sky you will see
Spring trembling all over, anxiously trembling

Translations by Martha Collins and Thuy Dinh


Lam Thi My Da was born in 1949 in Quang Binh Province and now lives in Hue. During the war, she served in Quang Tri and Thua Thien with the youth brigades and the women's engineering units. She is an executive board member of the Viet Nam Writers' Association and the Vietnamese Women's Association. Her most recent book of poems, De tan mot giac mo (Dedicated to a dream), was published in 1998 and won highest honors from the National United Board of Vietnamese Literature and the Arts.



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