Thursday, October 23, 2008

ODE OF THE WAR WIFE by Doan Thi Diem

When in the world wild dust blows
fair of face has many woes:
Lord of the far blue kingdom
on whose account has this come?
Moonlight trembles to the thuds
Of Trang-an’s drum:
Cam-tuyen’s fire reaches the clouds.
The emperor at midnight
bares his jewelled sword to fight:
a proclaimation
and the war is on.
Past three hundred years of peace:
soldiers are called to service.
Imperial envoys travel:
duty now is all their will.
Though in arrows appareled
The soldier’s heart
is fixed on his wife and child.
Shadow of flag, distant drum:
sorrow runs to the frontier
resentment fills the room.
Young men of heroic rank
put away their pen and ink
take up their sword to conquer
cities for the Emperor.
A man’s will is do or die
to toss great mountains lightly:
in battledress
he bids his family farewell
whips his horse, crosses
Vi Bridge, the autumn winds howl.
The brook runs clear, seems filtered,
grass is still young by the road:
see him off with heavy heart
its road unlike his horse
its water unlike his boat.
Water flows, grief is turbid:
grass smells sweet
the heart is not comforted.
Goodbyes, more goodbyes and walk
hold hands
at each step tug his tunic
My heart follows like the moon:
your heart was far wars to win.
You fling
the last cup down, point your spear
at the cave of the tiger.
You set out to fight the foe
In the steps of a hero
your horse snow-white, uniform
red as sun before a storm.
Harness bell blends with drum beat.
Together, the next minute
apart: you must be away.
At the roadside
the flag waves sadly, sadly.
Chariots already press north:
horses still paw western earth.
Horses, chariots go with you:
does the willow
facing north-west know such woe?
The flute of war blows, echoes:
the flag move forward in rows.
into far clouds
I watch your footsteps vanish:
Returning home
I watch the mountains and wish.
You go forth to wild and wet:
I back to mat and blanket.
Each looks round, and is alone
in floods
of blue cloud and green mountain.