Sa Mộc – Phạm Vân Anh (Chapter 2)


Oh leaf, how red it is the hills of formosan gum [1]

Blood of tree or the patriot’s

Thousand years of expansion

Rises and falls

The front shined with bright verdant feat

Silently red is the border.

Cinamon forest boisterous with passion bouquet

Dig stars to count

Border’s night of many entrusted words

Nature adores whoever marches to protect this land

Clouds gathered and turned into steel barricade, bronze wall


Ask where rivers get water from

From the border!

Ask the fountains from where its water flow

From watershed!

Let waterflow dissolves in the drained commencement

Let rice grows over fences of mountainous land

A crab is accustomed to terrace paddy field

Fountain’s name, trench’s name becomes name of hamlets, villages

Enormous verdant blazes with illuvial color

shining spiritual flow of Viet

Place that breeds the girls who soft as water

the boys who strong as water,

the elders who wise as water,

the kids who pure as water,

grow up by grandma’s tear mother’s tear,

by a-thousand-year sorrow of our nation

Place that breeds the men called Dung who acquainted to bitter and hardship

ten toes firmly attach to borderland,

sharpen bamboo stick for prolonged revolution
The brown women called Da enduringly labored the mountainous land

rose-myrtle eyes that purple the hill slope,

lovingly brew the child of the land

Ha Nhi ethnic

No rain but from afar those hills are soaking wet

From the skyline, green domain started fading

Last blast of fire moribundly sinks into storm’s root

Hear the restless sound of the river in the night at the outpost

Illuvial sleep startles

To where you are heading hey busy sailing ships

I lay my trust on steady paddle beat


Ask skyline from where did mountain rise

After million million eras of creation and destruction

So as to set up nowaday’s rolling stone barricades

Thousand-bloom Mountain rejuvinated

Stretch and forget every stung bitterness

The uptight of forgiveness let the corn goes golden, rice goes green

Human climbs upper step

Water flows lower trenches

Flow and flow through hidden tides, ripple spin

Gentle but smooth oh tides of history

In deep ground there keep thousand sentiments

There’s no bone that does not carry the blood of the forebear

There’s no flesh that does not carry the intimacy of our parents

Join the Eastern Sea are rapid tides of Bach Dang

Story of thousand years ago our forefathers engaged the enemy

Sharpened stake as the hatred in human’s heart

Radiant swords and spears frightened the invaders

Blue pure Nhu Nguyet just as yesterday’s

Indomitable “Holy” verse echoed at night

“Strike first” to keep a vast area safe as stronghold[2]

A hundred and sixty thousand dead bodies of Holy reign’s troops congested at the river

Bear in mind the reputable “Dong Bo Dau” of Spring

Thang Long turned into scorch earth in a blink of an eye[3]

Majorities falls to minorities for having no conscious of the water tides

Nam dynasty is no grasses to be crumbled under Yuan Mongol

Words of “Army exhortation” echoes for a hundred year

Assemble the nation to challenge enemy

From lords to servers, they devote

Some recluse in the mountains…

Some guard the Eastern sea…

Dew border’s eyes radiant of fire

A vast land of Tra Lan, a battle of Bo Dang

Epic victory of flaming Chi Lang

Blood spills on gateway’s surface

Ky Cung river carries a Grand message northward

Goblets of wine mixed with river water where generals and troops applaused

Went northward the North West borderland in days of warfare

See Pu Huoi Cho, Hao Trang carved words of the wise emperor

“Excellent defense of the border requires long-term strategy”[4]

Muong Le nine thousand high mounts

Da Giang three hundred waterfalls

For a Prince’s talent is the ability to tame the fiercest rivers

In earth’s beat there are hamlets that lighted night by night

In blowing wind’s beat the horses’ neigh and armies say Hura

In river’s beat, there echoes Ngoc Hoi Dong Da, Rach Gam Xoai Mut[5]

Human blood carved on rock

Layer by layer, germinated to stop enemies


River’s watershed is the furthest end

Ask where the marine beat take water to

Every ocean current brings flows of tuna that tumults the sea of Viet
For decades the whistling pine tree gargles tides and storms of the ocean

The red fiddler crab saccades its eyes as if it spins around in the sand dance

The children born out of seabed

From fish traps, sieves, baskets

From fishing net their strength thrives

The children hold concerns of a domain

Closed-mouth, holding on ship’s net like the bitterly salty grain of salt in evaporation pond

Having been beaten several times by the mournful white tides

Sea tears the flow apart to lay down and listen to the net breathing

Coldly grieve the tide’s heart

Dedicate the lullaby…

Bring me spirits of those who nestled in the tides!

Heigh ho… the funeral farewell sing

“Fortunate Eastern sea oh enormous Eastern sea

Hundred bounds before the Highness He

Pray for all the wishes and desires to become reality…”[6]

Heigh is sunlight

Shine on golden string

Heigh is rain

Boat hangs the wooden dream

Generous sea voice joins the open tide flow

Worship bell dedicate the deities praying for his protection over the nation, for the sanity of the livings

Tide transmits the state of the hurtful million…

After the swells, sea suppress the pain to split

The dock is once again crowded with silver fish, golden lobster

The island children, empty-island children

Thousand years silently connect the sea and the sky

Be a milestone of sovereignty that define our country

Sea pulse rises its beat that overwhelm the chest

Steady, paddle to the sun!


Please halt before a house that wide opened toward the border

Fear no Laos wind, mind no Northern wind

More elastic than shadow

My compatriots crouch like corn stem, peanut string,

like bamboo rat, hill myna

Two feets mysterily spread

Crossing rock-strewn terrains, crossing woodlands blood shed of thorn…

Houses that wide opened toward the border

Against their tradition of thousand generations for Motherland’s territories

The houses that intershoot the cupgrass’s seedheads

Twilight trail hangs on rolling rock tips

In the land of the border a house certificate is inessential

Found a modest fact

That they’ve been silently keeping their country’s certificate

Long for the reportage house wall of the mountain

Passionate red dissipates the frosty cold

How lovely the confusing child’s eyes

Innocent but poor, my heart tremble

How lovely the shirt color that tediously labor among the leaves

Sound of buffalo tocsin leisurely touches the sun


All along the known country

Mount curves the cloud ladder longing for the shoulders

wobblingly carry rocks to build flag pole of eternity

Despite Hoang Lien is no taller than a piece of termite mushroom

Despite Ky Cung pours water down the lowland

Wide opened toward the border for thousand years

Every house wall is a guarding post

Border’s night entrusts the dawn

[1] Tree that grows in the Northern borderland, its leaf is scarlet red the red of blood

[2] Tactic of not staying still waiting for enemy to come but to strike first to seize the initiation. Up to now, perhaps Ly Thuong Kiet was the first and only to have successfully applied this tactic against the Northern invaders.

[3] Scorch earth tactic of Tran dynasty

[4] After a successful campaign against rivals near the borderland, on his way back to the capital, the High king Le Thai To left a poem on two mountains of Lai Chau and Hoa Binh to mark his victory. That said “There has to be a good strategy for the defense of the border”. Much to say, it is still valid until now.

[5] Translator note: Famous battles of Nguyen Hue – Vietnam Emperor from 1788 – 1792

[6] Sea chanty of Quang Binh

What do you think?

Written by Trúc Anh

Vietnamese, English, Thai, Chinese

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