the neighbours rushed over to watch like they were watching someone having a fit. Sheepishly I laughed like I did something wrong: “I must bury this body!”. They broke out in laughter: “There’s nobody, what body?”. They couldn’t see the sizeable dead body nor the white skeleton lying in the middle of the yard. My next-door neighbour looks at me full of compassion: “Yeah, quickly bury it, before it deteriorates!”. Then he scoffed loudly and left.
April begins with the tired hearts learning how to spell happiness. The passing rain in dreamy sketches of the mountains and rivers, the image of a familiar yet unfamiliar face, not of yesterday nor exactly the face of tomorrow. In the minutes upon the sunrise the change of heart, upon the return of the wind, there were such turns of events.
The original translation completed in November and posted on Facebook on November 5th, 2016. It has been an incredible journey since then. My universe has expanded exponentially.
A couple of times I would wake up in the middle of the night, but this time I found a stranger next to me. “Can I stay here with you” – the stranger would quietly plead – “there’s no other shrub left!”. I asked: “Where are you from?”. “From the village” – the stranger replied, a little less shy. It was a girl, her voice crisp, kind and sweet. Naturally, as a reflex action I would have stood up straight away, but after so many days either laying down or on my knees, my feet were like jelly, all wobbly. I could not rise further than my knees, my arms raised in front of me, not sure why. The young woman grabbed my hands, her hands soft, gently pulled me down. “Sit” – she said quietly – “they’re nearly here!”. The scent of the young woman overwhelmed my tiny familiar grove of trees. My fears were somewhat suddenly lighter. Perhaps they will come. The four hands held onto each other, locked on tighter onto each other. We stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, as though it was a preordained meeting, two pairs of teardrops rolled slowly down the two pairs of cheeks to shatter upon two pairs of youthful knees. We grabbed onto each other, groaning in the deep darkness of trees.
No longer participating in any kind of social gathering and exchange, I am often alone looking out at the mead. Completely speechless, wordless, unless another person was nearby, and it is their words that would come out of my mouth. I had in submission surrendered my lips to the people around me, while I sat and waited, to see who would be the next person. Who will pass by with talk of nothing void of a beginning nor an end? I was watchful, as though for a burglar. And of course without warning, a stranger said: “Demons meet up there on the third floor, right next to the writer’s headquarters”.
Day after day, life continues at a rapid pace, always in a rush, where people leave to seemingly never return. There are the lonely nights, the mead in disarray due to some bloody war, the thrashing of endless living, the heartbreaking screams, the gratifying splattered blood and flesh across the horizon. In the end, as the sun rises, all is back in its place as it were, any evidence erased by the wind. Where we now live, is the residence of the night, of the conspiracy to harm, of the lurking agreements and handshakes in the dark. Hence, now and then the wind howls in bitterness, now and then, the clouds weave such laden pitiful images, and the flowers, the wild daisies silently carry their pain upon a patch of meadow bleached white in snow.
I rounded up seven rainstorms on Mount Chư Mang, layered them like an apocalyptic tsunami, did you see my love, would it be so hard to believe? The storm at the very end was of an age in shorts oxen herding, stealing potato roots smearing mud chewing wiping sludge off our eyes beneath the rain. The torrent a top achingly cold came solo from afar, heard the water seeping into bone pitied the tiny innocent heart, with all his paths leading into a barren desert. Placed above is the rain from a blistering land of sandstorms sweeping away the old trees. Then above an unexpected storm on the path to a nervous breakdown during that search for fun, in the half-light the four walls of the mountain pale white, chilling, lucky though, still in my hands the warmth of another.
In the middle of all the digging, an abyss appeared beneath his feet. Unable to find his shadow in time for the burial, noon, in Mount Chư Mang, he had to bury himself.
He said: “Who are we burying? Why does it feel like we’re burying ourselves?”.
“Firstly, we bury our arms. The arms tired for how many seasons, now need a rest, to stretch out, to set free the clouds of doubt, love and loss.
Only ashes remain, after the fire. And the grappling hearts. It’s us, our hearts, the remaining pieces after the burning catastrophe, can you see, us all black and blue damp with blood in the endless rising smoke. Now, no longer human, I’m finally officially free, allowed to see deep into my own heart as an outsider.
Life’s cruelty leaves one in a state of persistent terror of loneliness. Each day, I emerge inline in suburbia, in cafes or pubs with my mates. But always gruesomely possessed as though thick clouds blinded me, I saw no one, absolutely no one, just the sound of echoing laughter from some far off fantastic place. I’m alone.
By Nguyễn Văn Thiện, translated by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm
I’m describing an empty world, perhaps you do not want to believe me, but I did see it with my own eyes. I’m standing at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, at my feet, the empty waves are tirelessly rushing ashore. High up, by chance, the moon came, like an old friend meeting for the first time, the clear soulless face of the moon looked down at the water. The moon saw me, even so far away, but now my abdomen is vacant of its entrails, in my chest, sections of my legs were not hollow, but neither be filled.
By Nguyễn Văn Thiện, translation by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm
By Nguyễn Văn Thiện, translation by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm FACES OF FAMILIAR SPIRITS People say: “Write something nice!”. Making up a sweet story is simple, but the story of Mount Chư Mang has never ceased to haunt me. I ardently went in search of an adventure like the sad tale of Don […]
By Nguyễn Văn Thiện, translation by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm DEMENTIA You wake up one day, with a broken mind. You read about such things but never believed it. You’re full of doubts, you know after every cloud there’s another, and each bout of wind swallows the other. When you discover that you no longer […]
Separated by a small path, a park suddenly popped up next to a Necropolis of zombies. The best architects hired to construct this new development. Innumerable exotic flora, fruit trees were bought. Including ancient trees from jungles, and precious rock boulders from far away. The flowers bloomed with rippling streams and birds songs. The playground was glorious, as an ode!
When one ignites a fire, our words are the billows of the smoke of ancient crockery, the fragrance of charred crisp rice and salted fish. I’m confident in my flame. The mead is bright as the day clear through and through. I spoke like a child for the first time: Hey, night sky, will you let me borrow a star from the north, so I can ignite a fire, then continue the rest of this epic journey! Generously the night nodded. To ignite my fire, I chose a star named after a heroine from folklore long ago. From here, one would step off, barefoot, hands warm, and for sure, the story will be joyous and wondrous.
The alien women had full control of his body
When in a stupor, you like to talk, to debate, but the more you explain, the more everything is mixed up. I’m a quiet person, but as soon as the snake poison permeates, born is an infestation of useless talk. I’m afraid that if I do not speak, the language will gradually vanish, fade away, disappear. Daily, we spoke of inconsequential stuff with no beginning nor end, sometimes entirely without meaning.
I picked up each letter soaked in blood, in the middle of my palm, the sickly sweet stench of blood assaulted my nostrils. How can we save them, help them regain their lively, inspiring elegance? I’m not some warlock; I’m a country boy, an outsider to the realm of literature reserved for those more proficient. I was powerless, as the words were ripped apart and molest.