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Manoa 14.1 (2002) 134-137

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Four Poems

Phan Nhien Hao

Trivial Details

Inside an old car a heart sat behind the wheel
To circulate along the blood avenues
Where battles and a chaotic retreat occurred
In which my father was killed

I grazed her breasts and was wondering why she did not smile
It was what I had waited for all night inside a hut lit by a lantern
Her teeth resembled the keyboard of an unplugged organ

As a carpenter Christ should have made himself a coffin beforehand
Maybe that's only a trivial detail
But we live in a practical world, and trivial details are often what
generate beliefs

How to jump from the stove to the pan and back without tripping
My face is a doorknob
If you turn and enter, behind it is a void I have to stock with things
to convert into a warehouse before sudden dusk

Wolves are sharing the corpse of a crow and hurling blood at the sky
There are fixed values and unnecessary rituals carried out
because of instinctual fear

"Ah, in the end He has come," the secretary says, bowing to the God
of miserable fates,
Then throws his ink pen at the goldfish inside the glass tank
That tiny world soon has the color of the sea
By doing so he becomes a creator

I watch a film with a telescope and imagine that I am someone
from another planet
Who abandoned his own kind a long time ago [End Page 134]

A fat man kneels next to a woman who has just died
Says to take some of my flesh with you
Which you will need, when your own flesh has rotted
That is a dream I often have in my evening sleep

When bored and feeling rich I will travel
To a country where everything is coincidental
Man is born to be satisfied with waiting
Where I was born to wait for myself

The door slams with the vague sound of a collision from the other
    bank of the river where fishermen are tapping their boats to chase
    fish into nets.

Inside Submarines

We live inside odd-shaped submarines
chasing after secrets and the darkness of the ocean
on a voyage toward plastic horizons
where vague connections are always out of reach
and hopes are not deployed
before the storm arrives and the alarm command starts
to rouse the last illusions to stand up and put life jackets on
looking to each other for help

Once I was at the equator
trying to slice the Earth in half along the dotted line
but someone held my hand and said:
"If you do that, friend, water will fall into the void,
and then our submarine
won't have any place to dive." [End Page 135]

Autumn Song

Like an inverted hat in sunlight and the uselessness
    of a misplaced article
I realize I don't even resemble myself in old photographs
In newer photographs I am a color reproduction
    of an outdoor concert without listeners
Next to kinsmen of a different faith
That was a cloudy day and the faces were lit by flashlight
I walked slowly away from the looks

Autumn is like an old immigrant in old clothes
Forlorn and complaining about changes
I am not garrulous, it's just that I can't keep a secret
The hopelessness of unions makes me want to hear
Sounds of leaves falling on the chest
Of a man lying under a tree
With a hand grenade inside his pants pocket

Bread made of buckwheat mixed with some garlic
I don't like tossing food to pigeons in a plaza
They do nothing but peck and copulate
How did aristocrats make love in the past—like pigeons?
Books describe most of them as degenerates
Did they pluck feathers from birds and point at the moon?
If they raped they had to waste a lot of time undressing
People say that my country has been constantly raped!

As a child I spat into the palm of a blind beggar
What should I do...


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