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,


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


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


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


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


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,


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


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


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


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


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




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,




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












































owls hoot, moon casts down,





owls hoot, moon casts down,
Lê Tu ấ n dị ch sang Anh Ng ữ                                       

































owls hoot, moon casts down,




Lê Tun dch sang Anh Ng                                      





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