restive horse, alive and kicking yet,
off to travel, following the times.
meant to see new lands and thus forget –
toward his country he still turns his gaze.
thirsts for contact with some kindred soul.
craves the scent he smelled in soft, smooth hair.
how he dreams of gleaming eyes far off,
that hot breath which burned his heart, his guts.
toils and moils, surrounded by a world
strangers who avert their eyes, their ears.
man must hustle, scrounging food and clothes,
doomed to play the hanger-on.
old schoolteacher’s now bow-backed, gray-haired—
the eyelids linger cares and griefs.
had his heyday swaggering—oh, it’s gone!
what on earth have those two hands achieved?
teacher shyly clasps the student’s hand.
wind has blown us two together here?
wanderers meet abroad—it’s joy enough.
must feel sad about an exile’s life.
days and months are stirring in your mind.
miss your youth, long for those verdant years.
feet trod jungles, trampled red-hued earth—
people’s revolution!”, cried your mouth.
“revolution’ came, why did you flee?
knew all Marxist-Leninist thought by heart.
many adolescents you destroyed—
you feel happy now on alien soil?
college campus bored the restive colts—
spurned young grass that felt so cool, smelled fresh.
donned a red beret and roamed the wilds,
love of his fair homeland in his heart.
“revolution,” joining its maquis,
hoped to mend the heavens like Nü Wa.1
by bullets, they all sallied forth—
manly grit could just hold out a while.
looked down on a noncom’s stripes, stayed home
learned the way of life from Bachelor Xöông.2
others chose, becoming monks,
love and all its earthly scents.
can I tell them all, things past and gone?
griefs and woes! Enough to fill a sea.
outwardly I live, within I’m dead—
world I yearn for lies beyond my reach.
foreign land, dear teacher, owns much wealth—
cash all creature comforts can be bought.
only lack a little thing or two:
father’s face, my mother’s tender voice.
all her milk, I once grew up.
his roof I once became a man.
vast devotion matched the skies, the seas.
love was like Mount Taûn,
the river Ñaø.3
our land, is poor, an utter wretch,
it gives us the taste of human love.
its three parts share one stream of red blood.
sweet it sounds, the lilt of our folk songs!
moonlight over our Ñoàng-thaùp,
waters of Ñoàng-nai,5
purple rice of Chaâu-ñoác and
mountain boasts as many as Seven Hills?7
loved to bet on horses while at school.
flunked all subjects, history, civics, lit.
homework I devoured those swordsmen’s tales.
now, too late, I rue my onetime sins.
day, it’s “glorious” labor—eight full hours.
night, I drown it all in acrid booze.
learning why have I become a sloth?
catch mere bits and shreds of their strange tongue.
we’re ill-bred, untutored, don’t blame us,
you never taught us one damn thing!
championed Marx and Lenin both with zeal—
who has wrought such havoc in our land?
for now, until we meet again.
up—don’t feel so bad about it all.
restive horse, whose legs have not worn out,
hopes that someday he will gallop home.
Louis, Dec. 22, 1978)
(Translated by Huyønh Sanh Thoâng)
1 A Chinese Goddess of antiquity
2 A Vietnamese famous poet in the late 19th century
3 The high mountain and big river in the North Vietnam
4 Two big rice fields in the South Vietnam
5 A river located in northwest of Saigon
6 Two provinces in Mekong Delta
7 Vietnamese called “Thaát Sôn”, in Chaâu Ñoác province
Contact: Vinh Liem
1 Applegrath Court, Germantown, MD 20876-5613 (U.S.A.)