(ISSN: 1527-5467)
the magazine of Literature & Literature-in-translation.


JUL 2004

















Five poems by MAI VAN PHAN

(translated by Do Xuan Oanh )







   On leaving

   he wore sweater of duck-neck color, large seat trousers

   hair crew cut

   hand holding a book


reaching the door still mumbled:

light then dark...stinking then fragrant...pump then deflate...walk then fall...slap then pity...half-ripe then overripe...keep mum then scream...stuck up then then caught in the throat...expose then cover...intimidate then spare...give then fail to pay...shut up then uncover...missed it then die...extort then find it...


bolt wooden door

draw iron door

he pressed five safety locks

then threw the key inside...


Turn over the heap of blankets where he used to lie

a piece of paper was seen scrawling

“Whoever finds me somewhere, call number...

Thanks and would reward”


after the piece of paper still resounded :

stir it up then muddy it...humiliate then lament...dissolved than       drawn...unconscious then awake...request then drop it...

                     The Lesson


Arm and elbow always rigid

From wrist down fingers should be supple

Hand stately perform in the bag


I learned this lesson since childhood

(Once despised like fermented rice

trodden down the pavement by ­that stately one

Give it up for the rest of my life !)


Stately killing a mosquito

Stately speaking in general terms

Stately bowing empty

Stately stealing raincoat

Stately breathing smell into other’s mouth

Stately protect a wrong decaying tooth

Stately pissing at public spot

Stately sniffing in handkerchief

Stately readjusting cock in trouser pocket at meeting

Stately blowing nose on glass window

Stately squeezing money from a beggar

Stately overhearing telephone

Stately looking at sisters’ breasts in the funeral

Stately signing name in a scientific work

Stately writing love poem while being impotent

Stately sending virus into other’s e-mail

Stately changing fraudulent exam exercise

Stately spending counterfeit money


Arm and elbow always rigid

From wrist down fingers should be supple.


                            Just a dream


They muzzled

plundered everything

and asked me for the sexual organ


Asking for

but if I disagreed

that precious thing would be thrown into latrine

(they knew both the secret and incantations)


I said :

You can take all

but let me keep a little private

would voluntarily be a toy, clout, dog servant ...


I stooped to receive yoke on the shoulders

I fluffed my hair out and began to bark loud

I swung and screeched beep beep

I ground my body on the floor.


I ran around and my mouth foaming

I sweated, shammed death, fluttered

I crumbled, stampeded, broke into pieces

I soaked and squeezed...


                 Always keeping cool

                 to see visitor off at gateway


The teapot already made

turned round

the visitor was no longer there

Called on the telephone

House people said he died seven years ago

Mistake (!)


One’s own house

everything upset

Couldn’t remember when the portrait was put down...

Where was it the spring-operated clock?

The sham-antique tea set given by someone?


Dropped by the neighborhood

trying to ask a few kinds of foodstuff

kind of increased price

kind still of old price


In the house

The tea remained warm

Pushed the cup towards where the visitor sat.


The 1m60 high current of death coldness standing in face

now and then stooped.





Where darkness devoured darkness

he sat mumbling...


 ....continued whispering 

of unmade darkness 

of darkness gradually swallowing darkness

of blackness that couldn’t be blacker


He was where the perfection of:

broken mirror whole again / born insect / lost virginity / snapped

cable / unclogged sewer...


was a dump of rags / glass pieces / sanitary towel / outmoded footwear...



was a bullet touching target / resuscitating menstruations / stream running into the sea...


Creeping up a high tree

he called aloud:

Hey, shed the light in here!


By glimmering flash-light

everyone saw him open wide arms and hovered like angel.




       He laughed and waved fist through a hole dug on a piece

of board. Bony fingers curled up into iron fist to plunge thru the center without any obstacle. He thought, hand seeking the delight of a dog gliding through a big wall. The gap was too small between the board raised for the other hand to get through. Thirst for breath.

Every time plunging thru the hole mouth, his hand again open wide. The board was like a swimming jelly-fish caught into a bunch of hooks. Turning the board he sang: blue sky hey ho ... here the large chest vault...

Other side of the board was another world. Signboard, old teacher, expertise minutes, market, commemorative badge, sewer cleaner, fellow-countrymen society, monk, bathing oil, mouse trap, the prophet...and fashion was also different (that’s what he thought!) No wonder he didn’t plunge the other arm (!) He threw the board into litter box, stood firm, repeatedly boxed the conventional hole, plunged at a quick speed.

A forecast of sport future. With solemn title on evening paper, his name appeared in the list of champions.


                                  MAI VAN PHAN



 · THE WRITERS POST (ISSN: 1527-5467),
the magazine of Literature & Literature-in-translation.




Editorial note: All works published in this issue are simultaneously published in the printed Wordbridge magazine double issue 3 &4 Winter 2003 & Spring 2004. (ISSN: 1540-1723).

Copyright © Mai Van Phan 1999-2004. Nothing in this issue may be downloaded, distributed, or reproduced without the permission of the author/ translator/ artist/  The Writers Post/ and Wordbridge magazine. Creating links to place The Writers Post or any of its pages within other framesets or in other documents is copyright violation, and is not permitted.


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