letuanthewriter


Đây là bài thơ ĐỒNG LẦY của nhà thơ Nguyễn Chí Thiện do tôi diễn đọc vào dịp kỷ niệm 4 năm ngày ông qua đời.

Bài này, cùng với những bài thơ ngắn trong tập Hoa Địa Ngục, tôi dịch sang Anh ngữ vào năm 1982. Bản dịch này đã được báo Văn Nghệ Tiền Phong trao giải thưởng $5000.00 vào năm 1983. 

 


                        THE MUDDY FIELD


 


That day, though long ago,


seemed to be right there.


At twenty, entering the adult life,


the spirit was high,


the breeze slight,


from the four corners of the earth


the only sight was the new


horizon, spectacular and wide.


 


In ecstasy, how could I suspect


the stagnant mud lying in ambush


at the bottom of the lake.


At twenty, the age of innocent


and fearlessness,


with farfetched ideals


as beautiful as a poem,  wishing,


dreaming,


expecting something  gigantic…


 


Then on an early fall day


Autumn came back.


The naiveté at twenty,


thought the gleaming starred-flag


would bring splendors


to the native land.


Unaware that it was the onset of a


treachery that brutally demolished


the old and the new.


The sounds of destruction


devastated the nation.


The sun, the symbol of life,


spewed out puddles of red blood.


Oh, how I mourned the ruination


of the nurtured rice harvests.


It was an Autumn when the flood


turned into an ocean full of mud.


The savage red waves, one by


one, drowned the past,


flushed away the future.


Spattered with blood, blinded with


tears, covered with sweat and


frothy spittle,


Upon one’s returning:


“Who’s that? Do I know you?”


Terrified, dumbfounded, numb.


History abruptly made


a complete U-turn,


back to the age when


the beasts reigned openly,


where thousands of arenas sprung


up under the sun.


And right at the time when the


earth and the sky turned pale


the gang of treacherous murderers


raised their glasses celebrating


victory.


The dark melody of poverty


and misfortune permeated


the refrain urged partings,


and the unjust departure to prisons


from the cities, to the countryside


up on the mountains, down by the


sea, all shared the same destiny.


In the swarm, the reef banks,


the forest,


human corpses were used to feed


the trees.


The supreme tenet in the


muddy field


was to betray your teachers and


doublecross your friends


and an absolute, unlimited loyalty


to the party, to your group,


to the sacred leader.


 


A grain of rice, a kernel of corn


suddenly turned into


chains and manacles,


happiness and misfortune are


doled out exclusively by the Party.


And with time,


the face turned sallow,


the skin pallid


upon one’s returning:


“Who’s that? Do I know you?”


Oh, flowers of all kinds


tremble in fear!


Miserable in the field full of mud


are the straws and reeds


emaciated, wilted, forlorn.


And when the sun comes up


The flowers might have withered


and no longer existed.


I sit here, still,


with my mind wandering,


ignoring the pesky mosquitoes.


Everywhere, darkness spreads,


out there far on the field, is it


a man or a buffalo still toiling?


Goosebumps surface on my skin,


the curse of having to feed and


clothe oneself spares no one.


The thoughts bring me to the


ancient tale between the Angel of


Death and the old lumberjack.


I look up trying to see if there’s a


pagoda somewhere.


The pagoda has become


a chimera.


The wicked bird of doubt,


with its large wings spread,


hunts down the ancestors’ tombs,


churches and temples disturbed.


The boat of righteousness


flounders,


savagely the waves roar,


the wind shrieks.


Silently the dead weep,


the living sob.


The face of the earth turns dark


purple with the coagulated blood.


The treacherous flag


flies high at the time the Yin


soars and the Yang sags.


Idols wildly pivot


their images and


identities change.


Pác-Bó cave turns


into a dwelling for the beasts.


The old Uncle Ho morphes


into Uncle Sly Fox.


The tire-rubbered sandals


a hundred times heavier than


the ones made of iron.


The yellow khaki uniform,


its yellow’s as sickly as the


eyes’ color of the poorest  citizen.


Evilish, knavish, treacherous!


They torment and rob the people


down to their bare hands.


From the day the demon prince


gleefully stood before


the Party Flag, solemnly


reciting the early-day proclamation


to the gathering party members


who pledged to spend their lives


demolishing the thousands


of years of cultural legacy


bequeathed by their ancestors


in the pipe dream of building


the kind of nation


benumbed, lumbering and


never wavering.


And they opened the cages


out came the beasts with


the human faces.


In the countryside, where tombs


dotted the landscape,


the dead were in high spirits,


for they saw that it was less hellish


in hell than it was on earth.


For human lives were lower than


those of earthworms and crickets.


The eyes looked upward,


And saw the blue sky,


but the legs were trapped in the


pungent, stinking muddy mass,


the devils stood guard, ruthless.


While barely had enough to eat


still they toiled in copious sweat.


The straws, the reeds had grown


tired of hope and accepted their


destiny –  a life amid the gray mud.


The drearier life was, the more


the king of evils rejoiced non-stop.


And step by step,


I am no longer myself


but a painful decimated chunk


harboring the dreams that have


become stale and wretched.


If I drench in sweat,


my sweat will mix


with my lungs’ blood.


But the meager ration of rice


the Party doles out


does not give the body a chance


to gain back its strength.


Night after night, I have vowed


to train my soul to lay down


the sorrow, pain and regret


to supress the overpowering


hatred which, day and night,


torments me, making my body


exhausted and heated.


But how could one lay down


and supress


how could one be mute and deaf


when one has not lived long


enough?


Just like when one hasn’t fully


fathomed the depth of love,


how can one know of hatred?


Only when the balloon’s deflated


it will let men and


destiny trample on.


And the oceans with the great


roaring waves will only calm


when exhausted with the storms.


I sit there, listening to


the slow pace of time,


with my soul  soaking up


the moon-lit landscape.


The dew is descending


on the empty field,


the scenery is cold, foggy,


gloom and melancholy.


At the distant shores where there


are music and lyrics under sunlight


if someone thinks his life is full of


bitterness, come here and try a


taste of the muddy field


so his stomach, his brain, heart,


tongue and throat will be able to


differentiate the sweeet and the


sour, the joy and the grief.


In the ocean of merriment, there’s


no appreciation for a laugh.


For someone whose life


is without tempest,


even the vastness of the


universe is naught.


A crow’s sad, forlorn cry


drips on the field.


I become fully awake and return to


the nightmare.


The mosquito swarms - callous,


indifferent, noisy in flights -


are the favorite sons of stagnancy


and darkness.


They have grown up in the


blackness of night for so long


that they mistook


it for light.


The toads and frogs are still


singing the treacherous songs


in unison


vilifying the sun,


and flattering the black night.


The thin straws and reeds,


even at a wisp of the wind,


kowtow and bow their heads.


The color of the vast open space


around is that of barren and death.


The muddy field is weary,


Silently the column of ants


marches to and fro.


Is this a real life or a nightmare?


Why is it that men and animals


look so much alike?


The shirttail is pulled out to shield


his hanging belly full of fat!


Traveling in style in a “Zim”.


Cajoling in one moment,


threatening in the next


nodding his head, in sync with a


heap of moldy straw and trash.


The plants and trees -


inane, stupid and submissive -


lie there, waiting for the day they


will rot and decompose,


ignoring the constant plaintive


pleas full of anguish from the


gaunt and distressed birds.


That wooden bunch will have to


wait for the storms to come


for them to uproot themselves


and stand up.


But  it looks as if God has forsaken


this pallid muddy field,


and me, for I have been sitting


here, miserable and wilted,


casting my weary eyes upon


the blue sky with hope.


All around, the frogs are still


hollering in chorus


to destroy hearts, to harm brains,


making the youngsters


rejoice killing,


and the elders content with


the tragic deaths and losses,


in short, inflicting a voluntary


parting.


But why is it that the Autumn sun


brings the arctic air?


They march with arms, yet


uncertain, nervous,


the Party eggs them on, causing


dispersion and suffering.


Tears fall incessantly from


families, either poor or rich,


hit the bottom of the scorching


caldron and then evaporate.


The Party screams in madness,


with a bone stuck in its throat,


its voice hoarse, its ferocity


just a bravado.


The totalitarian iron net


is cast.


It’s brutal, wrongful, unjust,


bitter


the pooorest citizen swallow


their fate.


From the barren mountains to the


busy city streets,


from the remote islands to the vast


rice fields,


the yellow police uniform is


ubiquitous, the greenness yields.


Life is wretched and torn in the


muddy field


Yet bombs and bullets still fight


to take claim of the miserable


skeletal body that is left.


The scene of ten men going away


only two or three come back


the scene where nine girls fighting


each other to win just one man


is happening and will prevail


as long as the Party holds


the future in its grip.


The straws and reeds,


having been used to sigh in


distress, now look up at the sky


and ask:  why?


 


The moon fades, the stars dimmed


The unwanted dawn


slowly emerges amid the fog.


A miserable and wilted dawn that


pushes the whole country


down to the ground.


Listen to this one veritable truth


this is the most torturous dawn


on earth.


It announces a day without a


single minute


to relax, to seek comfort,


to let


people raise their  heads.


This dawn, with its perpetual


monochrome,


is to presage the total exhaustion.


The people, no, the


wretched machines


unoiled, unlubricated,


are prematurely broken.


Still, you must keep up your


cheerful attitude,


for the cries and the laments will


terrify the devils.


The crimes they committed are so


vicious and savage


if revealed, who would let them


live?


So, they are apprehensive,


jumpy and restless,


they spy on and


imprison the voices.


To the world, where the horizons


are bright and radiant,


please understand that the silence


in this place, on the muddy field,


is a voice full of torment


and despair.


When will the treacherous Autumn


be hauled to the pyre


and burned in the raging


flame of summer!


I have been awaiting the chorus of


thousands of cicada,


in the joyful prelude to


announce that summer


everywhere is on the march


to demolish autumn and winter


to restore the rosy color,


and to open the cages


for the birds of mishaps.


But at the moment, the cold


autumn has a free reign,


murdering the greenness,


and the stench permeates the air.


They use blood


to stanch the tears,


to squeeze out the sweat,


to silence the people


in hope that everywhere is mute


amid the poverty and misery


so they can freely play


the diabolic tune, misleading


the people in the faraway places


and hounding the ones nearby.


Oh, God! If there really is a God,


why are they being spared


for so long?


Sometimes, I imagine the sound of


life riding the red waves, coming


through the wind.


All the dreams and hopes long


thought dead rise again in tears,


woe, and agony.


Out there, life is in full blast,


why is it that this place’s forever


silent in a tomb?


Bitterness and anger strain to rise,


how miserable!


Space, please disintegrate and


shatter into pieces


so time will no longer torment


the human race,


so the gorillas and apes will stop


cheering


in the oppressing darkness.


Oh, the doomsday, when it comes,


will be the day this painful heart


is swept away with joy!


Oh wind, please do not tell the


tales of continents and seas,


of the faraway horizons that I’ve


long coveted


where the warm snow falls,


and people are kind-hearted


or of the fairy island that glistens


with pearls and jades.


Oh wind, please have pity on the


people who are nailed down on


this sorrowful coordinate,


the hope for the faraway horizons


is woefully worn out.


Everywhere the shadows of


the human buffaloes toil


in the stagnant mud,


in the tunnels, in the factories that


wear down bones and tendons


and yet, at night, on Satan’s


decree , drag themselves with an


empty stomach to hear the evils


who masquerade as angels and


make plans on sucking the blood


and grinding the bones but saying


they are building a paradise


in hope of recruiting new slaves.


I don’t know


how much


the sycophantic toads


get paid to extol


the devils’ terrifying


paradise


with a deafening tune at night.


Hey, the devils’ rice and fish


are full of bones,


and beware!


It’s hard to swallow.


Go ahead, sing! But if you


go off-key even a bit, the Party


will toss your entire family into hell.


Day after day, month after month,


the disgraced autumn still


stretches over half  of the


Trường Sơn mountain range.


Even though we are smothered


by the slippery mud,


the human inner force


will prevail over all,


and sooner or later, will rise up,


knock down  and  bury the devils


at the bottom of the muddy field.


 


This will be the grave of the


 


autumn in disgrace.


 


Summer and spring will stand up


 


in glory.


 


Although we, the unfortunates,


 


might not see


 


summer and spring, our lives


 


would make the human race sweat


 


when thinking about the devils’


 


bloody red flag.


 


The sun‘s rising,


 


my soul’s anguished,


 


I’m anxious to sever the rotten part


 


on the long-stretched  body


 


of time.


 


But known for its pigheadedness,


 


time coldly resists.


 


And the days stagger on, bitter,


 


humiliated, miserable.


 


I want to scream in the silence


 


thick and black


 


for people from thousands of


 


different places to hear


 


and then flock over here,


 


and help close the muddy field up


 


and exterminate the venomous


 


mosquitoes which, day and night,


 


annihilate the red corpuscles.


 


But buried deep


 


in the mud,


 


the cry for help is wheezing and


 


feeble in the throat.


 


Meanwhile, the treacherous lies


 


coming from thousands of toads


 


still reverberate,


 


pulling the wool over people’s


 


eyes here and faraway, all over


 


the continents and oceans.


 


I know that, so I can’t let


 


the inert time lift me up.


 


Writhingly, wailfully I find


 


my own way out.


 


Even if I would have to pay with


 


my bones and flesh,


 


I can’t be content lying low and


 


breathe in the terrifying stinking


 


stench of black mud.


 


All around, the devils hide


 


themselves to spy on us


 


with their guns ready to fire.


 


I , even though dejected


 


and fractured, do not


 


fear the fateful bullet


 


that would relieve me of the


 


perpetual agony,


 


and to the sky of oblivion,


 


my soul would soar.


 


Even though the iron curtain does


 


not have a gaping hole,


 


using my teeth


 


I’ll tear up a link


 


even though the devil could catch


 


me and toss me into a hot caldron


 


I would plunge ahead


 


without regret.


 


Deep down in the mud,


 


the human buffaloes toil,


 


chasing the sun,


 


per the chief devil’s decree,


 


the little demons are out on the


 


streets, urging, spying on


 


the sounds of anguish.


 


Hey you, why is your face not


 


radiant?


 


Hey you, how dare you sigh?


 


You people have to


 


work twice as hard,


 


so the evil king wiil rejoice and


 


live to a hundred!


 


While millions of people are drowning,


 


I wish that the world will quickly


 


rise together and smash the head


 


of the red, extremely dangerous snake


 


who was born and grew on deceit,


 


secreted the venom of hatred,


 


and faked its achievement.


 


The name of zealous patriotism


 


was cunningly  used;


 


it beseeched China and Russia


 


without a shred of shame.


 


Gaining enough strength, it


 


revealed itself a cheat,


 


raised its head, flicked its tongue,


 


bit the necks of its citizens,


 


turned the tombs upside down


 


ruined lives, wrecked faiths,


 


sapped streams and rivers.


 


Oh, the French creeps the people


 


had thrown out,


 


sparing no blood,


 


are remembered with rueful regret.


 


Thanks to the fangs and claws of


 


the beasts, the colonizing grip


 


seemed almost tender.


 


Patriotism, having been conned, is


 


still lying there, licking its wound,


 


how much more the demonic party


 


hope to score?


 


Even if you try to evoke


 


names of the ancestral patriots,


 


the people have had it


 


with the farce


 


called the revolutionary war.


 


What they gained were mourning


 


headbands and crutches,


 


but lost the brightness of life.


 


 


 


 


 


 


The party says silence, says talk


 


says cry, says laugh,


 


says starve, says work; if


 


someone as much as complains,


 


the tyranny would put him in jail


 


till his bones crumble into dust.


 


Is it the reward for


 


his sweat  and blood


 


for those few thousand days


 


fighting the French in years past?


 


Oh, how shameless, how cunning;


 


the people have already wised up


 


and the demon’s bag of tricks no


 


longer works.


 


The dark violence flaunts its


 


white fangs,


 


rings the barracks and prisons


 


with steel fences.


 


Still, the ruthless power


 


is  powerless facing


 


the utmost disgust coming from


 


the hearts of the people.


 


For the ones who pretend that


 


they are blind, dumb and mute


 


but whose hearing is perfect


 


and whose vision is farsighted


 


have already seen clearly the


 


demise of the muddy field.


 


Although the red snake would


 


have had its skin shed, it


 


would not be able to escape the


 


immense net of justice.


 


The divine reasons and


 


righteousness are fathomless


 


their time of death, the demons


 


would never suspect!


 


And then,


 


when the wind rages,


 


ruthless devils, where would


 


you hide from the fiery storms,


 


where would you cling to?


 


You might get so hysterical,


 


try frantically to prepare yourself,


 


and together you would make


 


plans but it will be the lowly straws


 


and reeds that will burn you and


 


turn you into gray ashes.


 


The Marxist doctrine, a dreary


 


ghost that has no root on our


 


ancestral land,


 


has been tearing the country apart


 


it’s time that all of its disciples face


 


the firing squad.


 


Yet you still enjoy the daily feasts,


 


for you think the tall and robust


 


trees have been felled


 


and there’s nothing left to fear.


 


Do you know that the straws


 


and reeds, aflame, will erupt more


 


than hickories and elms.


 


And the people with


 


only skin and bones


 


will spring up with power and


 


overturn everything.


 


 


The flower of life the Party


 


crushed, hoping for its death.


 


But no, its scent is still permeating


 


across the nation.


 


At the bamboo groves, street’s


 


corners, thoroughfares,


 


the beloved fragrance still


 


discreetly lingers.


 


If all the souls living in agony


 


would not bow their heads, and


 


refuse to accept the life of misery,


 


if we all could reach a decision


 


on a path,


 


a path of blood,


 


a path of salvation.


 


Though our bones would be


 


crushed, flesh pulverized


 


by the sacred flame that


 


punishes the devious evils.


 


Though we’d die without seeing


 


the flowers bloom


 


we’d have lived a life


 


without shame,


 


we’d have lived a life


 


with a heroic glory.


 


If we could together agree


 


to use our fresh blood to nourish


 


the flowers,


 


which, permeated with blood, shall


 


flourish in all places and


 


thousands of buds would blossom.


 


The flowers of joy, of liberty


 


which are priceless,


 


would only bloom with the help of


 


vengeful blood.


 


The country has fallen down


 


into a spike-trap ,


 


it will take more than one day


 


to get out of it.


 


Like a sailboat at sea


 


needs to await the forceful wind.


 


To destroy chains and shackles,


 


it takes the power of a hammer.


 


As for us, we need to put our


 


corpses together to build a raft,


 


use the gush of our blood to


 


create the waves


 


in order to rise above the


 


vicious muddy field,


 


to grasp the rescue pole up high.


 


With the guns and swords


 


and help supplied by friends,


 


we will blow up the mountains,


 


part the clouds


 


and await the fierce storms


 


to enable us to enter the caves


 


to demolish evils,


 


reclaim the earth and the sky,


 


take back the greenness,


 


and the light of life.


 


But, it’s a long process and life’s


 


short, alas!


 


The silent wish persists


 


fervently inside me,


 


I await something like the


 


thunderous crash of the high sea,


 


something to enliven the hearts


 


that have been dead for sometime


 


inside the coffins -


 


our lowly, knavish bodies.


 


That booming sound will spread


 


to the horrifying prisons and


 


concentration camps and will


 


make the beastly enemies think,


 


restoring the faith for all that


 


almost gave up on the future.


 


The bunch of thin reeds, dried-up


 


straws and wilted weeds


 


is thrilled, clamoring,


 


expecting.


 


That sound will bring about


 


the storms and gales all over


 


the miserable, dreary oceans.


 


Thunders and lightnings will tear


 


up the black night, announcing the


 


enemies’ death.


 


I have been expecting a vociferous


 


roar like that of the high seas,


 


my people also share


 


the same wish.


 


I listen


 


it seems like that noise has begun.


 


But I know well that is the


 


roar of a long-stretched history.


 


Therefore, though the


 


dark night  is an abyss


 


and seems infinite above my head,


 


I still pray,


 


still live and still believe


 


that dawn will come, and indeed,


 


coming it will be.


 


While the immoral flag’s still


 


flapping in the sky,


 


I still dream of an ultimate truth


 


that’ll come and chase away the


 


darkness on this earth


 


in the glorious,


 


almighty, sacred halo.


 


Myriad rumbles will shatter


 


the quiet sky and


 


announce that the thunderous


 


dawn’s ready to blast.


 


Oh! behold the overwhelming sky


 


filled with wrath


 


the overwhelming sky filled with


 


immeasurable agony


 


that has been oppressed


 


miserably for eons.


 


From the shameful bottom


 


of the muddy field


 


the rumbles will erupt like


 


waves roar, waterfalls cascade


 


and the evils will meet their end.


 


Their corpses will litter the streets,


 


strew across towns,


 


their blood will blot the sky.


 


The triumphant trumpet of


 


freedom is all over the place,


 


inaugurating the new dawn,


 


restoring lives.


 


Oh, I’ll live and I’ll wait


 


for the day millions of hearts


 


explode and blow up the sky.


 


 


 


Night on the muddy field, the


 


falling dew makes small sounds


 


 


Translated by Lê Tuấn


(1982)


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


owls hoot, moon casts down,


 


melancholy…


 


(1982)


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
owls hoot, moon casts down,
 
melancholy…
 
Lê Tu ấ n dị ch sang Anh Ng ữ                                       
 
             (1982)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

owls hoot, moon casts down,

 

melancholy…

 

Lê Tun dch sang Anh Ng                                      

 

             (1982)


 
                 

                                 
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