Sa Mộc – Phạm Vân Anh (Chapter 3)


                   Spring, at the moment, is “say san across this place”[1]

                   Press down leaves, unveil clouds Stiffy Soong-hao[2]

An eye blinked, a hundred years gone

A nation’s rises and falls

A bloodshed to bring forth peace

Mountain wriggles – thousand battalions of war elephant charge

Discussion on heroes can not simply rely on their failures and successes

Predecessors’ integrity lasts til nowadays

Cycle of tree life

An inherited human life that guards the border

Precarious layers of leaf race against time

Hold the ladder, step on clouds

Every leaf step draws quiet vacant air

Step wrapped around mossy reportage wall old as dirt

Step swallows dew so as from barren earth seeds may rise

Step distills morning-dew wine that smelled of brewed  sticky rice

Step that forest aroma is distilled and on which honey sunlight condenses


The Kinh remember proud cunninghamia

The Han call them Abies,

Among hamlets of Tay, Nung it is May-vac

Dye color of Co-may brightens the color of Dao dress

The medicine of Van du gladdens Xòe dance of the Thai

Yew, Vietnam swamp cypress becomes the legend of bazan

As reaching the sea they become Sheoak, Ironwood…

Oh holy trees

Having followed compatriot‘s footstep, followed grand forest wind to this land to bud and seed then we are brothers, deepen the root harden the branch to strike firm in righteousness

Having gone through the mill they bud out in a stormy rainy night, accept the bitter so its muted tone shell bears a pentagonal iridescence, being selflessly eventhough humankind may sometimes frail

Cold rock and blurry dew, bazan of burning light, ever since the beginning of time, despite fire and water the haughty remains

The burning cold that pierces the skin all the way to the mountain, air strip strains leaves into bronze brown, the colder it is the more the bud twists and tights

Unalterable in the middle of awestriking bullets, though leaves and branches were all shot to hell, the bruised trunk left ragged by cannon shrapnels takes root and buds out after an eternal night, another trunk then thrives boastfully before rapid gun sound

Cold, hard and dormant uphigh, hum a peculiar wavy low-tone harmony, whizz by and play a pure fantastic song of sky silk


                   If rock were property

Then whereelse could it be more wealthy?

Sun burns rock

Rock reflects, bakes the burning human shadow

Tree covers and eases the land

Spread the crisp over the girl’s-waistband hill slope

Flute sound or tree’s words

Pay no heed to the flowing water

Root holds tight, never leaves

Pay no heed to the moving earth

Branches hold the clouds, never leave

Cunninghamia puff up its chest like a young man

That far bastion green of soldier uniform

   Sweat nurses the verdent bud
         Livid skin dries out golden season

   Callous hand melts white snow

Let the foot free from enervation

The heart less arid

The remant freeze on the blue tower
The night tosses in cerulean

Moon is yet an orphan

Just naïve like grass

Lying at night hearing water-fall

Startled before March

A semal seed soft as a lady

Burns a blue rare afternoon of the borderland

White orchid blossoms all over the sky summit

Sunshine finds its way back to mountain slope

Falling leaves stir up empty woodland

How merriment a laugh

Lively lips play a leafed rthym of khen[3]

Sticky rice passioned with love

The North West’s purple mottles the afternoon

Sparrows chirp in forest path


Snow drapes medals on the green leafy chest

A soldier carves his name on the upright trunk

Burries himself in youthful sleep after the battle

Drenched dew on buttstock

Finger that stays all night long on the trigger

Entrust life and death to the mother land

Who said sterilization perishes love

Country’s key region shone with love

Peaceful border

Flaming border

As invaders come the rain turns into tempest

Golden sunlight, dazzling sunlight turns into nature’s kiln

Burnt-over land, tall house’s floor becomes solid bases

Shelters and trenches around the rock’s bottom

Gun pit in the middle of the paddy hill

The mother whose forehead strained of the carried basket, the boy who hand-pick bamboo shoot, the elder who cross-legged at tall house’s entrance… they all become guerilla fighter

Understanding man’s heart

Tree hastily grows high seeking source of light

Whiter and whiter the thousand-year cogongrass

Thousand-year green cunninghamia

Sharp leaf shoots into dawn

This land can not be taken

By those who only know to invade

There are no army that can be more flamboyant

When red, orange, indigo-blue, purple, brown, black enter battle

In the far front brothers become comrades

From the elders to the younglings a shared purpose is to

Fight the invaders

To carry the scrawny country across wrenching tempest

If flesh and bone were property

Then whereelse could it be more wealthy than the borderland

Whereelse could there be more flesh and bone than the borderland

Whereelse could it be more tremendously hurtful than the borderland

Cunninghamia sets up sky ladder

Dew stays on every strip of gem

Huddling birds call each other…

[1] In Thai, this means “attending a festival” (“say san” is a Thai’s festival)

[2] Translator note: “Soong hao” is traditional folk song of the Nung

[3] Hmong musical instrument

What do you think?

Written by Trúc Anh

Vietnamese, English, Thai, Chinese

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