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Some poems of Mai Van Phan

Saturday, 11/05/2019 00:07

Biography of Mai Văn Phấn

Vietnamese poet Mai Văn Phấn was born 1955 in Ninh Bình, Red River Delta in North Vietnam. Currently, he is living and writing poems in Hải Phòng city. He has won a number of Vietnamese and international literary awards, including the Vietnam Writers' Association Award in 2010 and the Cikada Literary Prize of Sweden in 2017. He has published 16 poetry books and 1 book "Critiques - Essays" in Vietnam. 15 poetry books of his are published and released in foreign countries and on Amazon's book distribution network. Poems of Mai Văn Phấn are translated into 25 languages, including: English, French, Russian, Spanish, German, Swedish, Dutch, Albanian, Serbian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Slovak, Rumanian, Turkish, Uzbek, Kazakh, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Thai, Nepalese, Hindi & Bengali (India).


The Flower of Mount Yên Tử


It blooms on the mountain top

Serene in strong winds

Under the clouds of change


Seven hundred years ago

The Buddha King Trần Nhân Tông

Lowered his head when passing by


You and I

Lower our heads when passing by

The children

Also lower their heads

When passing by


As we descend the mountain

We meet the pilgrims

Holding small bamboo canes

All eyes turn upward

As we amass heat to burn the flower to its roots.


The Opening Ground



between the screams of ephemeral belts of land

the riverbed writhes in waning light

dusk holds day tight in its mouth

fire convulses

fiercely ascending the tree tops

scorching the buds


A flight of birds spreads across the sky

so thoughts can reign on earth

where the wind’s face meets a bowed hill top

a deep cavern exhales myths to morning dew

ponds and puddles find a heavenly direction

the river gives birth while flowing


An open embrace of waves

playing in childish ebullience

the water surface turns to ruins

You set up an already broken sun




An unknown silence is drifting by

the lamp wick shortens

as kerosene soot says its last words

I vaguely hear the boiling batch of herb saying its apology



A flower opens vast expanses of land.




The mute patches of mud withhold their sparkle

Strained eyes compact space

A figure

Stands on the lotus pedestal and delivers


Water weaves together

Waiting for the rise of any off-season lotus shoot

To target a flying cloud

mysterious as a text with fading characters.


The lake bed no longer holds fire

The wild grass has grown cold

Flickering rags of black butterflies

shoot out from explosions of tree root


Water weaves together memories

of yesterday’s scent

of yesterday’s silhouette

lucid in the falling leaves of human voices


The human voice grows indiscernible


It is not as fearsome, as fingers that clip a lotus

emaciated under a transparent robe.

The Soul Flew Away...


A spider’s hammock being torn by the lifting fog

Returns freedom to the soft tongues of grass


The drifting clouds rub out

A horizon that has just buried darkness


Blood resurrected within the ground

Turns into young sap welling up at each falling leaf


While long-suffering shadows remain silent

The thrush bursts out a firework of calls


Buds are shooting up dividing walls

As arteries of streams clear and circulate


Tongues made of glass break into voices

To discuss each discolored photo


The words in a notebook having dreamed of fire

Just before they become ashes, suddenly come to


When moving out, one has tossed the incense sticks’ leftovers into the river

So one wonders why fragrant smoke still lingers…


The Pace of Coming Autumn


Autumn releases a thousand boats

Rhythmic breathing as water splashes

An invisible hand rests on my shoulder

Both riversides tremble in anticipation


Rain breaks out from a summer's dream

Blades of grass turn upwards to receive each slow drop

As leaves rot, their souls rush to the tree top

A blue sky comes back, as fog lifts from one’s hollowed eyes


From here to the other side is so close

Yet it will take an entire restless autumn

Someone is immersed in ardent flowery colors

Causing the boat over there to drift its way back.


Variations on a Rainy Night


Rain comes at last

And thunder rumbles

Tender shoots strip naked in darkness

The land tries to hide its barren dryness

When roots feel their way into our chest


Together we desire

And together we recall

A leafy cone hat and raincoat or lightning across the sky

Night lies down with all the tombs

Its black shirt still hung in the trees


Together things cool down

And together things echo

The sounds get lost inside our deep sleep

Where countless upside-down dreams are shattered

In this cool, expanding, reverberating rain water.




Water drives the pond’s shimmer high up

flooding the placentas, dispersing destinies of bindweed

the anxious way back


Roots that keep the ground

The path scattered with the scent of breasts

connecting faces with numerous skulls

one or two dangling from each arm


Again the path

footprints of the sickle

footprints of the scimitar

tears run on crumpled patches of wheat-grass

sharp pains for a life of needle and thread

to safeguard the dam from breakage


A call disrupts the space of a slaked lime pot

crumples the crane’s resin-stained wings

fills with air the basil shirts of drums and rattles

blows away banners


We dig up graves one by one

solemnly pick up each syllable of the word “ancestors”

O village!

our hands trembling as we rearrange the bones

before it dawns.

Written for the Flute


I blow into the dark-as-hell hollow of a flute to discover the seven ways to paradise: do re mi fa sol la ti.

Each scale flaps its wings and flies away, gliding into the mysterious glittering seven-color light. Those shadows bear the shape of the flute. Soon I will put my lips to each shadow and blow.

Leaving the bass section, they fly, and then release a myriad of pitches into the night. I hear laboring footsteps of night echoing, as it leans on the octaves to ascend.

A muted universe is hanging in the night. Tender waves let the shadows know to wake up in the morning and meet the light.

Each dark corner inside me is sucking on sounds, like sucking on a mother’s breast, and from my half-open mouth, light slowly streams in.


At the Root of the World

For Susan & Bruce Blanshard


I see at the top of the hill

A beardgrass flower just bloomed

Light emanates from there


Dawn emanates from there

And illuminates the foot of the hill, a forest exit

Birds depart in the early morning

I too have just left my memories


Not from anywhere else

But from that very beardgrass flower

An extremely beautiful day is forming


I walk to the nearest café

To wait for my woman


And for a long time I look towards the hill

True, very true

All of us were born there.


Translated from Vietnamese by Nhat-Lang Le

Edited by Susan Blanshardf


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