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Khế Iêm




A Bilingual Edition

Ấn Bản Song Ngữ

Translator J. Do Vinh

Consulting Editor Richard H.Sindt

Tan Hinh Thuc Publishing Club


Tan Hinh Thuc Publishing Club

P. O. Box 1745

Garden Grove, CA 92842

World Wide Web Site

© 2009 by Tan Hinh Thuc

All rights reserved

Cover art: Inspired by the poem A Row Of People by Lê Thánh Thư

Cover design: Lê Giang Trần

Printed in The United States of America

Other Poetry

By Khế Iêm

Translator: DoVinh

Consulting Editor: Richard H. Sindt

Library of Congress Control Number: 2009942301

ISBN 978-0-9778742-4-8






Meaningfully selecting a number of poems from the first phase of Vietnamese New Formalism poetry prepares this form of poetry for a new period of changes. This prepara-tion is necessary so the next generation can create their own styles and contents. As such, each poem in this collection is a small gift for readers, young poets, and old friends with whom we have collaborated and shared our enthusiasm and concern for this new form of poetry. We hereby gratefully acknowledge the contributions of poet and translator J. Do Vinh, editor Richard H. Sindt, poet Stephen John Kalinich, Mr. Michael Estelle, writers Phạm Kiều Tùng and Dương Tất Thắng, painters Đinh Cường, Lê Thánh Thư and Nguyễn Đại Giang, and poets Nguyễn Đăng Thường, Đỗ Minh Tuấn and Nguyễn Hoàng Nam.

Thơ Khác • 8






Thư Cảm Tạ


Khe Iem’s Selected Poems: An Introduction 16

Giới Thiệu Tuyển tập Thơ Khế Iêm


Frederick Feirstein

Author’s Notes


Ghi Chú của Tác Giả


New Formalism And A Story


Tân Hình Thức và Câu chuyện Kể




Cái Hộp




Bậc Thang




Những Chiếc Ghế


Blank Verse


Bài Thơ Không Vần


The Dining Set


Bộ Bàn Ăn


9 • Other Poetry

Pages (From a Book)


Trang Sách


Life Story


Chuyện Đời Kể


A Saying


Câu Nói




Ảo Tưởng


A Death On Television


Cái Chết Trên Truyền Hình




Tủ Lạnh


The Black Cat


Con Mèo Đen


Between Who And Who


Giữa Ai và Ai


The Woman


Người Đàn Bà


A Cigarette


Điếu Thuốc Lá


The Story Of Your Life


Chuyện Đời Anh


The Afternoon


Buổi Chiều


The Morning


Buổi Sáng




Chúng Ta


Dark-Skinned Girl


Cô Gái Da Đen


The Girl In The Mirror


Cô Gái Soi Gương




Khổ Đau


A Row Of People


Một Hàng Người




Nỗi Buồn






A Dead Bird


Con Chim Chết


On The Spur Of Moment


Tức Cảnh


A Drama


Vở Kịch




Ý Nghĩ


11 • Other Poetry





TV Script


TV K ý


Readings Of “The Song Of A Warrior’s Wife”


Đọc Chinh Phụ Ngâm


Many Faces


Đa Bản Mặt




Tứ Tuyệt




Âm Bản


The Poem Searches For The Poem


Bài Thơ Đi Tìm Bài Thơ


A Celebration of the Silence

by Stephen John Kalinich


Ngợi Ca Sự Im Lặng


Bud weis er – drawing


by Lê Thánh Thư


Bud weis er – drawing


by Đinh Cường


Bud weis er – drawing


by Nguyễn Đại Giang


Thơ Khác • 12

Khế Iêm – design


by Nguyễn Đăng Thường


Khế Iêm – drawing


by Đinh Cường


Introduction To Vietnamese New Formalism Poetry 84

by Khế Iêm


Tân Hình Thức Nhắc Lại – 10 Năm

How To Read


by Nguyễn Hoàng Nam


Cách Đọc

Heaven and Earth Amidst Storms


by Khế Iêm


Thuở Trời Đất Nổi Cơn Gió Bụi



Tiểu Sử


Ghế Và Người



Giải Mã Thơ


Nỗi Khắc Khoải Thời Gian Và Ngôn Ngữ

Đỗ Minh Tuấn

Cover Art

Inspired by the poem of A Row Of People By painter Lê Thánh Thư

13 • Other Poetry

Thơ Khác • 14





Frederick Feirstein

Robert Frost said that reading a poem in translation is like kissing a girl through a handkerchief. What is most difficult is not being able to hear the poems in a foreign language. Yet in translation we can get the structure, imagery and meter of the poem, and these will give us a feeling of what the poet is trying to convey emotionally.

This is the case with Khe Iem’s work. Via the Internet, I have heard a few poems of his poems in Vietnamese, which gives me some sense of how lovely are their seven-tone melodies. I wish I had a CD of many more. But what he is doing metrically becomes clear through translation. Interestingly enough, the meter reminds me of Kenneth Rexroth’s translations from the Chinese in which he uses the seven- syllable line with the repetitive technique of assonance that he learned from the French. In Khe Iem’s poetry he similarly uses five, seven, eight syllable lines that repeat key words and uses alliteration also for repetition which is very effective in ways poems in Old English (also a monosyllabic language like Vietnamese) can be.

The lines are limited to 5-8 monosyllabic words in four-line stanzas with or without enjambment, which sometimes creates a counterpoint between symmetrical and asymmetrical patterns. The use of enjambment also allows Khe Iem to write short narrative poems which depend on continuity of thought Thơ Khác • 16

and feeling. This flow is made easier by the plain diction he uses which The New Formalism in America considers important.

Khe Iem often deals with the reliability and indefiniteness of the narrator and the reliability of what is being narrated. For instance, he ends “Boxes” this way: “… but i am about to / say, as i have said the things that i have / said, regardless, it is better to have /

been than not to be, but those are not things / that i wish to say.”

In “Chairs”, the poet tells us what chairs are not and are until we lose the word “chairs” in an attempt to find its concrete reality.

Khe Iem accomplishes this by the end of the poem after a whirl-wind of words about chairs: “... chairs that / are not far away, chairs beyond / all things; chairs that are just / what they are chairs.

I am a psychoanalyst as well as a poet and am treating a young poet who was trying to express to me what he had no verbal expression for. He wanted to know if I understood what his wordless experience was like. I read “Chairs” to him, and he said, “That is exactly what I feel.” He then proceeded to imitate the poem himself in various ways.

Three of Khe Iem’s best poems using reliability / unreliability (in a carefully organized book) are “The Dining Set”, “Pages (From A Book)” and “Life Story”. Although he explores the uncertainty of reality where time and space lose their boundaries, he returns us to reality in almost a Zen-like way by the end of these poems.

One of the most moving poems in the book is a narrative, “A Death On Television”, in which “The woman sees the death of her own son / on the screen but does not believe that her / son is dead, and even though the news came like / a storm about the death of her son, she / does not believe what she saw …”

This is all too common an experience for the survivors of trau-ma. Leon Klinghoffer, a family friend, was one of the first public, Western victims of contemporary terrorism. He was thrown 17 • Other Poetry

off the cruise ship the Achille Lauro in a wheelchair. When his wife Marilyn was interviewed about it, she said she had such a sense of unreality when she watched the event on television that she momentarily felt she just was watching a television show.

This experience partly is the result of the blurring of boundaries in our media-saturated age. It is a central theme in Khe Iem’s work done seriously and sometimes even comedically, as in his poem about a Budweiser beer commercial, which il-lustrates the attempts of advertisers to enter our unconscious.

Khe Iem is one of the leaders of his own literary movement in which several poets whose work he anthologizes* follow his style and the ways he perceives reality / unreality. The movement is called Vietnamese New Formalism – the newness partly being the use of colloquial diction in combination with enjambed or end-stopped blank verse. He traces the origin of the term to a name given to an aspect of Expansive Poetry, the movement Frederick Turner and I started to open up American poetry, then restricted to the free-verse confessional lyric. As I have pointed out in my essay “After The Revisionists”, there was nothing new about The New Formalism, that it simply was a return to a tradition discarded by several of the Modernists and Postmodernists. Khe Iem sees this clearly as well.

I have not only disavowed what our imitators have made quaintly formal but have emphasized that Expansive Poetry is simply one historical literary movement like Modernism and Postmodernism.

I expect that Khe Iem, being such an original poet, might find yet another new way to articulate and perhaps expand what he and his followers have been doing. Personally, I would like to see, if they already doesn’t exist, very long narratives which the form allows for. Turner, for instance, has written three book-length narratives.

I am very interested in what Khe Iem’s movement not only is doing in his poems but is explicitly stating in prose. In his “Introduction to Vietnamese New Formalism Poetry”, he has de-Thơ Khác • 18

fined clearly the main characteristics of his movement. He also emphasizes one of its broader goals in saying: “The purpose of New Formalism poetry is to propel Vietnamese poetry onto the international stage. That is why translation is emphasized to seek readers from different languages and cultures.”

From what I have read of his work and the translation of his allies, Khe Iem seems to me to be accomplishing that. He has his own press and is translating some of our work into Vietnamese. He quotes a letter from the website www.thotanhinhthuc.

org that says: “Come join us in this small, yet warm corner of poetry. Let us raise a glass and toast each other in this meeting of minds.” And so my glass is raised and I congratulate Khe Iem on his excellent book, his anthologies, and essays.



* “Blank Verse”, Tan Hinh Thuc Publishing club 2006, 64 Vietnamese poets. And “Poetry Narrates”, Lao Động Publisher, Viet nam and Tan Hinh Thuc Publishing club 2010, 21 Vietnamese poets.

19 • Other Poetry



This is my first collection of poetry translated into English. I had previously published two collections of poetry, Thanh Xuan (rhyming) and Dau Que (free verse), in Vietnamese only. This new collection has an entirely different style. I have always composed in Vietnamese, a language that permits me to express the art and spirit of poetry – it is a language that I love, and my mother tongue. However, as an immigrant to America, I also love my new-found land. And that is my motivation to labor: to introduce American poets and avant guard movements to my Vietnamese readers, to seek new compositions that can easily allow translations, and to effectively introduce Vietnamese poetry to American readers. I have previously written of these techniques and have refined them. I have introduced Vietnamese readers to the theories of Chaos, Fractal Geometry, and the application of Butterfly Effect, feedback and iteration, in that poetry which imbues natural rhythm. Of course, in order to produce works of quality to our satisfaction, a long period of time is required.

Let us look back on American poetry in modern times, from Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and e.e. cummings at the first half of the 20th century, then the later half, with Charles Olson until the avant guard poetry movement of L=a=n=g=u=a=g=e Poetry in the 1980s, which Paul Hoover calls the post-modern American poetry. But I was excited about the New Formalism, Expansive poetry and Slam poetry coming next, and peaking in the 1990s.

Thơ Khác • 20

Expansive Poetry has revived poetic forms to balance the dominance of free verse poetry. Furthermore, Expansive Poetry and Slam Poetry utilize common language and thus has freed American poetry from academia in order to communicate the poetic expression to a wider, more general audience. This development is similar to Vietnamese poetry from classical to modern times; its main function was to serve the nobility and intelligentsia. Thus a revolution was required in order to usher in a new century. Poetry today no longer has the important effects of past centuries because information technology has captured the time and attention of the public with many other things. However, it is ironic that poets have sprung up in abundance everywhere and at all times. I believe that poetry’s hidden potentials have not subsided, but have actually increased because poetry has the ability to bring people back to the realities of life, and to balance out the illusory existence of cyberspace created by the Internet.

Regarding this collection of poetry, there are poems, like “Readings Of The Song Of A Warrior’s Wife” or “TV Script”, which require an accompanying essay in order for the reader to better understand the poems. Some composition could not be translated into English because its essence is grounded in the Vietnamese language, such as the drama “Chairs and People”, an essay about my poetic developments by the literary critic Do Minh Tuan. This collection of poetry is introduced by Frederick Feirstein, to whom I am grateful and honored. It is these small accomplishments that have given us the much needed exposure. These achievements have been the contributions of many: writers, authors, translators and poets who composed in this new form and beyond; also the readers, critics and essayists who collaborated with The Journal of Poetry ( Tap Chi Tho) throughout its 10 years of existence (from 1994 to 2004). I beg your indulgence to allow me to collectively thank you all.

21 • Other Poetry

I am also indebted to and grateful for the contributions of editors Dr. Carol Compton, Angel Saunders, Richard H. Sindt; American poets Alden Marin, Frederick Feirstein, Frederick Turner, Michael Lee Johnson, Rick Stansberger, Stephen John Kalinich, Tom Riordan; English poets James Murphy, Paul Henry, and Australian poet Phillip A. Ellis for their collaborations which have assisted me tremendously.

Thơ Khác • 22



While I sit sipping my coffee

on the curbside and telling my

story passed down the generations

telling a story like the story

told by every generation,

about a woman and her sorry

brood (on a corner of a city

known as the place of death, on a

corner known as the place of life),

drawn in by dark lines of charcoal;

broken curves, ugly shadows of

old photographs, like today and

tomorrow and the day after

tomorrow, and that’s about it,

who knows if the woman and her

sorry brood, still telling the story

that has been told by so many

others, nothing different from

the story, the story that tells

itself, even though there is no-

thing beside the story that tells

itself, including the woman

and her sorry brood, stepping out-

side of the story being told.

23 • Other Poetry


The trash upon the streets, the rags upon the streets, the thrown-away boxes upon

the streets, that cannot be argued with; and i am about to say the things that i

am about to say but i keep saying

the things that i have said, that i am crowded in a thrown-away box, as i am crowded

upon the streets; unable to step outside of the box, just as the box is unable

to step beyond me; like the boxes that

hold old shoes the boxes that hold old clothes, the boxes filled with vanity items,

the boxes lost and confused, as i am

lost and confused; boxes telling old stories, boxes repeating themselves, retelling

old stories, such images, appearing then disappearing, such realities, appearing

then disappearing, such unfortunate

events, such unhappiness, such pasts, and as such, as such, as such; carton boxes, plastic wraps, soft nylon, personas of cartons, of plastic wraps, of soft nylon like trash, like rags upon the streets, scattered as such, miserable as such; but i am about

Thơ Khác • 24

to say the things that i am about to

say, as i have said the things that i have said, regardless, it is better to have

been than not to be, but those are not things that i wish to say.

25 • Other Poetry


Stairs connecting many floors, stairs leading to many ports, stairs and footsteps; footsteps within me some pigeon-toed, from the city to the open sea; footsteps within me

bleeding a lifetime of nomadic

wandering, though I have never lived

the life of a nomad; this is to

allude to the fact that i am a

fragment of the past, crushed by butterfly wings, cast away to become exiled in

strange lands; no different from the stairs and the footsteps, appearing and then

reappearing, fallen into chaos; because

it isn’t the stairs connecting many

floors, stairs leading to many ports, and footsteps within me still echoing sounds drawing me eerily closer in fact;

I do not wish to speak an iota

more of what I am speaking, the footsteps and the stairs are coming to a close here.

Thơ Khác • 26


Chairs not of the same colors,

chairs not used for sitting,

the words for chairs, not chairs; chairs that can be touched, chairs that can

be called names, chairs that are

indeed chairs, that are not chairs;

chairs that can never be drawn,

chairs that can never speak, chairs

that can never be had,

because they are chairs that

never change their form, chairs that

can never be misplaced or

lost, chairs that are not present;

chairs, alas, that is what they

are indeed chairs, alas, not

of the same colors, chairs, alas

not used for sitting; chairs that

are not far away, chairs beyond

all things; chairs that are just

what they are chairs.

27 • Other Poetry


In memory of writer Hoàng Ngọc Tuấn (1947-2005) You came to see me every Friday

as if everyday was a Friday and

on other days you went to other friends

as if for other friends everyday

was another day, until one day I

suddenly disappeared, like every

Friday disappeared into another

day, like one life disappearing

into another life, I disappeared

from you, you disappeared from me because I was swept up into a life of exile,

and you were forever lonely, forever

homeless, forever remaining, and I

did not know where you lived on every

Friday, until today when you suddenly

disappeared, you disappeared from yourself, you disappeared from me as if we are

both coincidental, like every road

is a passage, temporary as such,

nothing interesting, nothing worth

talking about in this world, there is only what you leave behind that is worth talking about. “The Hammock-Hanging Girl”,

“Maybe It’s Love”, “Letters to the Chrysanthemum Thơ Khác • 28

Mountain Road”... Like blank verses, like your life because it is also without rhyme, no

rhyme at all with life all about, thus, you are forever a wanderer, a never

ending wandering towards wind and sand,

while I am also a wanderer, but

wandering through a normal life, very

ordinary, not knowing when I will

be finished, when I will be done. But now we can say goodbye to Fridays, and say

goodbye to each other, because it has

been a long time since there was not any day that was Friday, your’s and mine, and since then you and I have not once met. Anyway,

let me wish you a peaceful rest.



The writer Hoàng Ngọc Tuấn was born in 1947 in Thừa Thiên, Huế and died July 9, 2005 in Sàigòn. He was the author of several short stories written for teenagers: “Maybe It’s Love”, “The Hammock-Hanging Girl”, “A Place Where Everyone Knows Each Other”, “The Wedding”, and “Letters to the Chrysanthemum Mountain Road”.

29 • Other Poetry


The dining set takes up an empty space,

including a table and four chairs, white metal, next to a white wall with a hanging painting; the face of the table is a brown circular formica, the leather of

the chair is brown; it is a cheap dining set, bought from a garage sale, and the person who sold it at a garage sale had bought

it from another garage sale, used it

and resold it, selling it and giving

it away at the same time; the dining

set had no origin, mute, belonging

to the world of things, to take up an empty space, nothing worth talking about, just to realize the true existence of space,

the true existence of the painting,

the true existence of the flower vase,

abstractly existing. The dining set

including a table and four chairs, once

upon a time, came from a garage sale.

Thơ Khác • 30


He steps out from pages of

whispered tales of love stories

from The Hunchback

of Notre Dame to the

Strange Tales of Liaozhai to

the “magical realism” (One

Hundred Years of Solitude)

thousands and tens of thousands

of love stories and all as

fictitious as reality and

after he had stepped out from

the pages he is no longer

himself and he is a fictitious

character he is no longer

himself now no longer the

person he was he is himself

but why is it that people

are still crazy about fiction

unbelieving of that which

is real but he still believes

that he is himself and not

believing that he is not

himself although neither is

real and thus that which is fictitious

is considered to be real

after all he had stepped out

of the pages but the pages

had not stepped out of him

so that these stories are now

within him or without him

and he tells about stories

or the stories are telling

about him and then there are

31 • Other Poetry

times when he is telling about

himself and the stories are

telling about themselves or

the stories are just stories

and he is just himself

etcetera etcetera until both

he and the stories are fictitious

as fictitious as reality.



1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a novel by French writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885).

2. Strange Tales of Liaozhai is a novel by Chinese writer Pu Songling (1640-1715).

3. Magical Realism is the technique that Gabriel Garcia Marquez (born in Aracatara, Colombia, in March 1928) uses in his novels and short stories.

Thơ Khác • 32


Yes he has departed this place some

Twenty years ago without saying

As single word of goodbye and I do

Not understand what happened he

Usually sits on this chair next to the

Chair that I am sitting on twenty

Years and perhaps even before that

Because I had just discovered this

When what I said echoed back to me

I do not understand what has happened

I have remained silent for twenty years

Now everything else remained normal

Activities normal, the woman said; but

I remain sitting on this chair next to the Chair that she is sitting on for however Long I no longer remember perhaps

Over twenty years only I don’t hear

Her anymore although I know that

She still speaks because I see her lips

Moving just flapping up and down

But there is absolutely no sound, and

I am still sitting here and perhaps she

Doesn’t see me anymore just as I can

No longer hear her voice if she speaks

33 • Other Poetry

But I have been sitting here for

Twenty years let’s just assume that’s so But because time has curled up so we feel Like it’s just yesterday, everything else Is normal, activities normal, the man

Said; and the story continues as such

The woman doesn’t see the man and

The man doesn’t hear the woman

Although they are both sitting there

On the chairs next to each other

Like two shadows next to each other

And it has been some twenty years

Everything else is normal, activities

Normal twenty years has come to pass,

But because time has curled up so we feel Like it’s just yesterday.

Thơ Khác • 34


“I stepped out my door at five” but which of the doors and what of the hour, five, and a bunch of other questions that should never be answered to an end, because “I stepped out my door at five” is a saying that

came from a story that has since

disappeared like so much noise in the city, like so many daily lives, even though

anybody can stuff it into any

other story and any other story

is not necessary the same story

whence came the saying “I stepped out

my door at five”; so what is the story

behind that ordinary saying that’s

like every other saying that’s

secret even though a saying is still

handed down from person to person and to a yet unknown crowd, to spread the untrue story of the saying “I stepped out

my door at five”. I go! Bye.

35 • Other Poetry


A man twenty years late speaks to

the man twenty years early that on this

bench, under this sky, almost twenty years that the drama not been written yet, and the nighttime play did not start yet, the trash can contains trash but nothing else, and there are the heavy footsteps in the streets and sleeplessness in the town, the muscle sprains and fractured spines, for twenty years; the man twenty years late pulls a coat over to

shield the cold from earth, measured by hand between the evil eyes and decadent breasts, groping for scripts torn and then glued together in stupid memories; but the man twenty

years early is not listening, not seeing anything in the man twenty years late,

he still walks lonely, lonely like a ghost and never knows that the man twenty years early is the same man twenty years late, waiting for each other as if the life waits for

the death, almost twenty years, that

the drama not been written yet, and the

nighttime play did not start yet, the trash can contains trast but nothing else.

Thơ Khác • 36















The woman sees the death of her own son

on the screen but does not believe that her son is dead, and even though the news came like a storm about the death of her son, she

does not believe what she saw; no one received the news and recognized the death of her son and she also could not understand

even her own pain because that is only

37 • Other Poetry

a partial death on the screen and in the news, and the pain is only a partial

pain; the story both real and unreal

about a son in times of war continues

to be told without ever quitting like

the pain shivering in her heart; her son dead or alive, no one could know what is behind the death of a young soldier leaving a wife and a newborn child growing up

without a father other than a letter remaining

“And if you can wait just a little longer, I’ll be there as soon as the war ends.”

“I’ll be there …” no one could understand except the woman swallowing her pain

waiting another death of her own in

order to be with the son losing the

way home, and her memories fading for

more than once she does not believe what she saw – the death of her son.

March 27–2003.

Thơ Khác • 38


Refrigerators are for free on the

streets, refrigerators advertised,

these cold, cold refrigerators, refrigerators that possess me and did not possess me;

but what I have done for these refrigerators and never ask what these refrigerators

have done for me, because the refrigerators are my code number, the refrigerators

are me and i am the refrigerators;

so what, what about refrigerators

that open and close, what about the selves that open and close, these refrigerators are difficult to see on the streets, these selves are easy to see on the streets,

these refrigerators are advertised,

these selves, on the contrary, are forbidden to be advertised, these cold, cold refrigerators, these cold, cold selves. Please ask these refrigerators, who am i? And never ask me about

these refrigerators. “I consume! Therefore I am.”*


*imitation of the saying: “I think, therefore I am.” René Descartes.

39 • Other Poetry


The black cat with my soul and a piece of my rib, wakes up every morning not

washing its face, every morning not

brushing its teeth; the black cat with clay-like eyes, opening and closing, or opening and never closing, as it climbs up

and down the stairs, dragging with it my soul and a piece of my rib, forgetting that

i had lived much darker days, since when and why it was i had buried them in my

pocket full of notes gathered from

many different tales, strung together

to make up this story about the black

cat with my soul and a piece of my rib;

of course, that is the black cat with clay-like eyes, not any other kind of eyes; even

as the black cat climbs up and down the stairs.



“The Black Cat” is one of three very fine poems in the December 2007

edition of Poetry.about Forum (

Thơ Khác • 40


The truth is, the truth is, the truth

is i don’t know how to begin,

since i acknowledged the space be–

tween the unoccupied chair and

the chair i am sitting in, but

i had sat in the unoccu–

pied chair before, and the chair that

i am sitting in, i also

had sat in, so the space between

the unoccupied chair and the

chair i am sitting in shouldn’t

occupy my mind at all, such

as myself, i don’t even know

if i exist or not, if i

am sitting or i am not sit–

ting; what i am saying and at

the same time, sometimes when i meet

with bad winds and why i am just

saying a bunch of things at the

same time, but that’s the conclusion,

i will tell everything; right now,

i still don’t know how to begin,

how to begin; let’s wait a few

moments to catch enough words, right!

41 • Other Poetry


The woman sleeps with a man who is not

her husband, in a room that isn’t her

room, with herself that isn’t herself, in an evening that is unlike any

other (like any other evening),

in a station full of mosquitoes and

horse piss, regurgitating whatever

can be regurgitated, erasing

whatever can be erased, throwing the scrap of old newspaper into a pile of

trash, telling a depraved and tired story; stepping into wooden heels, lifting past the threshold, to find the man who isn’t her husband. That’s a given. So let it

be. The woman who’s lost her past, or her past has faded, unreal, a hundred years

gone past, once upon a time, once upon

“a white-shirted time long ago”*. The woman spins on her heels, goes back to the room that isn’t her room, with herself that isn’t

herself, apathetically, such as

the truth was never true.


“A white-shirted time long ago ...” quoted from a song by Tram Tu Thieng

Thơ Khác • 42


I stand under the porch, glancing

at the derelict man, stinking

of alcohol, walking back (and

forth) begging for a cigarette;

of course, it’s just a cigarette,

how could i not have one, but there

has been many times in my life,

when i did not have even one

cigarette; one cheap cigarette

not worth anything, one time i

did not have even that which isn’t

worth anything – i’m sorry – but

the derelict man, stinking of

alcohol had gone (then came back),

handing me a cigarette, a

cigarette not worth anything

and now i still don’t have even

that which isn’t worth anything –

thank you – thank you, to the dere–

lict man stinking of alcohol

and for the cigarette, simple as

that, strange as that, floating every–

where around us, around me, and

i’m simple as that, strange as that

under this porch; who am i, who

am i, oh, ah yes, i am who.

43 • Other Poetry


For a poet

Deaths that have never been real

deaths they have never occurred

like we have been born without

origin and arrived here

from the chaos momentarily

stopped because life and death

have been a story retold

incidentally retold and

is nothing more than a story

that within a few moments

has become old and after

a few moments the story

has been told and it is over

after it is told returning

to the teller so that other

stories like those have not been

told about life repeated

that have never been real

because we only exist

temporarily in a

Thơ Khác • 44

life’s few moments and then

return somewhere from where we

came deaths that have never

been real and you have just

momentarily stopped

a few moments. Thank you for

coming into life and for

telling the story of your life.

45 • Other Poetry


Or I walk in the afternoon, faded

into the afternoon, when I am no

longer myself, I am the afternoon,

or I stand to look at the afternoon

with eyes, the afternoon in me, of course the afternoon does not fade in me as

I fade in the afternoon, the afternoon

remains the afternoon, and I remain

myself, but when the afternoon is trapped in me, the afternoon becomes my sadness, the afternoon becomes me, but it isn’t

me that feels the sadness in these afternoons, as such or I am walking in the

afternoon, or the afternoon walks in

me, there really isn’t any difference,

other than that sometimes I am the

afternoon, and sometimes the afternoon

is me that is all, and so in order

to solve this confusion once and for all, the only way is to close the afternoon

in me and beyond me, by remaining

in a room behind a closed door.

Thơ Khác • 46


I exit and enter the morning

like the morning exit and enter

into me, but how can the morning

exit and enter into me, as

for myself of course I always have

a way to exit and enter

the morning, this can be explained

because I am not within myself,

therefore the morning can exit

and enter me, like a wind into

an empty house, and if you

the reader wish to be sure if

this is indeed the case or not, then

just take me and the morning out of

this poem, then the poem will have nothing left in it, absolutely nothing,

so that it is as if the poem is

no longer a poem, because it is

no longer me, and the morning is

no longer the morning, but it is

not so, for no matter what the

reader had already read the poem,

and so this story, really only

means to make nothing out of what

is something within yourself, and

a poem that has nothing in it is

what makes it the best poem ever,

isn’t it so according to me.

47 • Other Poetry


Each of us looks at each of

us differently, like us

today looking at us

yesterday, us now looking

at us tomorrow, we are

copies of infinite

copies of us in the loop

of time, each moment is one

of us, each of us is a

different us, each of us

is one of us past, but each

of us also looks back at

us differently, because,

if we step outside of

the loop of time, the us of

today does not exist and

the us of yesterday does

not exist, and the us of

the present does not exist

and the us of the future

does not exist, each of us

is not different from

the other and our play is

different us and not

different still we keep

performing life’s drama as

if we are not us.

Thơ Khác • 48


Oh dark-skinned girl, with a

beautiful face and yet your

eyes are so sad, sad as jazz

songs in the afternoon sad,

upon hearing the news

about her younger brother

living on the streets and shot

down on the streets or like a

sad story about a father

that amounted to nothing

because of gambling and

addictions and he left a

young wife and two young children

leaving without a single

word of goodbye oh dark-skinned

girl certainly those eyes

are not your own but exact

duplicates of your mother’s

eyes because that is the sadness

that has built up over time,

over a husband and a

young child that has made up those

sad very sad eyes as such,

oh dark-skinned girl with a

49 • Other Poetry

beautiful face who should

really have the innocent

eyes of an angel and so

you should return those eyes

to your mother, because

your life is not the life

of your mother, each life

belongs to itself, and

no life should be the life

of another, and oh dark-

skinned girl my words are not wrong

(even if they are wrong they

are not too far off) such a

beautiful face as yours should

have the innocent eyes of

an angel.

Thơ Khác • 50


The girl in the mirror is

reflected yet only the

reflection recognizes

the reflection the reflection

doesn’t recognize her, she

steps out of her, only her

body recognizes her body,

her body doesn’t recognize

her she does not see herself

who is she who is she and

who it is that is asking

the question unanswered

because only the question

recognizes the question and

it doesn’t recognize her

because she herself is the

question and because every

question is meaningless when

it is unanswered so all

the reflections are meaningless

like all bodies are meaningless

because she is the reflection

that is her body that is

she is actually everything

that is meaningless.

51 • Other Poetry


For two young brothers

Because you were born into suffering

and having traveled all the paths of

suffering and thus capable of

understanding that suffering grows and

grows until it can no longer be

forever imprisoned in bodies and

bodies are too wasted to bear the

suffering and thus perhaps that is why

the tears start falling the tears are the suffering departing from the body

the body departing from the suffering

and we depart from each other although

we have lived with each other in brotherhood for a long time beginning with some

fortunate chance… the body returns to

the great motherland while suffering

disappears into the skies and then suffering is no more bodies are no more in the

lonely journey elsewhere. Alas, let’s

rest, o my beloved brother of old, rest

you now, listen to the earth and the skies disappearing with the melodies of

a sunsetting afternoon.

March 7, 2008

Thơ Khác • 52


A row of people sitting on a bench,

on a bench a row of people sits, each

person, each person as if from a mold,

each person, each person, not known, not unknown –

some slang seeps out from between their teeth, um-ahs, um-ahs, blah-blahs; no words uttered, just imagine that they are mutes – waiting, waiting for something, something else, but that something, that something else (that hasn’t happened and will never happen), has nothing to

do with a row of people sitting on

a bench, on a bench a row of people

sits, like a dream without a source (how could there be a source), they look sad happy (and to the contrary), within that which is

forgotten (what is something forgotten) –

because a row of people sitting on

a bench, on a bench a row of people

sits only some words made up from copies that are not real at all this row of people sitting on a bench, on a bench a row

of people sits; staring straight away,

staring straight away, staring …

53 • Other Poetry


sadness stands on the other

side of the street waving to

me and I stand on this side

of the street waving goodbye

goodbye to sadness from now

on we each part to our own

ways in life and of course no

one really knows where sadness

would go after so many

years lying within myself

other than sadness because

everyone has their own private

sadness and who wants to store

even more and more sadness

(sadness will fade away once

it can no longer find a

place to be nurtured, certainly

so) regardless I and sadness

still have some sort of sympathetic

relationship thus there is

this moment of departure

and the situation now is

sadness still stands there on the

other side of the street waving

to me and I am still here

on this side of the street waving

sadness, goodbye, oh, sadness.

Thơ Khác • 54


Tsunami, Tsunami

thousand meters high opening

up the abyss swallowing

my brethrens. Dear brethrens

of many colors, dear

brethrens of one great mother,

dear brethrens of mother

earth, in a moment turned

into defunctness. Oh,

unknown time to come, unknown

time past, we are thus born

from fragile living things we are

born from suffering and

whether it is known by

the green waters or by

the blue mountains, we are

still brethrens because fragile

things are but fragile living things

because suffering remains

with suffering. Tsunami,

Tsunami, why around

me was it twilight soon?

Dear brethrens of one great

mother, dear brethrens of

55 • Other Poetry

mother earth, thousand meters

high thousand meters crashing

down upon a century

in the blink of an eye.


A tsunami in Southeast Asia occurred at 8:00 AM on Sunday, December 26, 2004, with an epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, magnitude 8.9 Richter, killing over 203,000 people. Indonesia was the hardest hit, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

Thơ Khác • 56


A story is told of a flock of migrant

birds flying in the sky when one of the

birds falls upon a gifted painter’s

stand bringing with it the deathly cold wind of an early winter, the dead bird slumbers in a thousand years’ sleep upon the canvas (leaving its mark for a thousand generations) and for those who have seen the flock of birds disappearing into the horizon,

while the dead bird (as if it’s real) still lives in front of the eyes of people from one

life to the next, the dead bird flies up to become beauty, the flock of the bird always flying in a fog, life entering into

death and death exiting life, the dead bird has died while the flock of birds flies on, no one needs to know which flock of birds is which although, no matter what, life continues to be unexplainable confusion, goodbye.


Inspired by the painting STILL LIFE WITH DEAD BIRDS by the painter Christoffel Van Den Berghe (1617 – 1642), Dutch, 1624, Oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. 71.PA.34

57 • Other Poetry


Sitting and sipping a cup

of coffee in the morning

and listening to birds singing

on rooftops and feeling light …

like cloud shadows * … like cloud shadows …

a cup of coffee… like cloud

shadows … tables and chairs and

pots and cups and still life and

me and others … like cloud shadows …

turning into life gesticulating …

day after day sitting and

sipping a cup of coffee

waiting waiting waiting for

what … like cloud shadows … the songs

of birds early in the day

tables and chairs and pots and

cups and still life and me and

others right in the life of

sadness and joy but nothing

comes of it … not even cloud

shadows …


* “like cloud shadows” is to be read softly like four bell sounds.

Thơ Khác • 58


A drama wherein the only character

is half of this person and half of another written over the course of twenty years

until an actor is found because how

could there be an actor who is half this person and half another person, therefore the drama must wait for a very long

time to be completed and on the first

opening night the person who created

the drama threw it into life seeking

congratulations for an intellectual

child, but the person checking the ticket pointed to the person selling the ticket who said, “we’re sorry there are no more tickets, please come tomorrow night” although I am the author “there are no more tickets, come tomorrow night”, several tomorrow

nights came and went but the tickets are still not there when the drama only exists

for a few tomorrow nights and it is

unknown when it will happen again because the author of the drama must wait for

some unknowable time because the drama

must wait for an actor for over twenty

years because how could there be an actor that is half this person and half another person in one character.

59 • Other Poetry


Thoughts springing up from the earth, thoughts falling down from the skies, thoughts chasing and pursuing, quick footsteps growing

ever quicker, thoughts eliminated

rising and falling, thoughts that are

left behind and a body that

carries an empty mind flowing

away, flowing away, ever

present like the earth and skies,

peaceful like life and death in the

sound of silence of old… and then

continuing as such footsteps slowing

down, going ever slower, thoughts

chasing and pursuing until they

fill up the mind and then quick footsteps growing ever quicker clumsy,

cluttered thoughts, making noise on

a clear, quiet night and then

dissolving, what remains is

a body and a mind that really

aren’t anything to be busied

or bothered with.

Thơ Khác • 60


Talk when it is not possible to talk

and don’t talk when talk is necessary,

and this dilemma is prolonged, perhaps

from a century earlier, “hey, those of

you who have low necks and little mouths stick your head out a little further”, these things i am uncertain, because i cannot know

when that century earlier actually

began because as i am talking right

now i cannot know when i actually

began talking, and is it me who is

talking or is it someone else who is

talking and i am listening; and maybe

i had been enticed into this dilemma

because the devils and demons of time

have captured me like they have everyone else by trick and by treachery; although i have tried many different ways to

change one me for another me, although

i am not the main character of myself

and neither i could step out from my own body nor my own body step out from

me, and as such there is some oppression upon the face of God; for what to seek

61 • Other Poetry

when my Mexican neighbors are near earshot, they play their music unbearably loud,

and so i have to make efforts to go

outside to see what kind of people these people are, how do they behave, but when i open the door, i am surprised to

find that there is no one in the empty

room, screeching with irritating noises, closing in from all sides while i can no longer crawl and pounce upon a pillar

of the house to interrogate why,

perhaps if i could grab hold of something or other what would befall me except

deadlock because of a language barrier,

therefore i dig into these piles of old

books; finally latching onto a book

with yellowed pages chock full of ancient thoughts of thievery lying in wait; and now

it occurred to me, that i am not much

good, only a stagy manner, regurgitating things that had been handed down, and things belonging to others from ages past, that i rarely understood in any sense,

never leading to any finality;

but back to the loud noises which i am

still burdened by, and thus subjected to hearing on a daily basis, from

morning to evening and i want to

Thơ Khác • 62

go crazy such that sometimes i feel like i want to cut off my ears, but if i

do that then my face will certainly appear strange; on the contrary if i remove

the ears then what shall i do with the eyes, nose and limbs that remain, “hey, rugged ragged guys, why hang yourselves in the middle of the day like this without shame” imagine right now, that i am like a log rolling

at the edge of the forest, and having

the misfortune of running into a

woodcutter who takes me home, chops me into pieces and tosses me into the fire pit,

to cook and to burn, then my life would turn into ashes; but being the chameleon that i am i would have to step out of myself

otherwise all would be … lost. Bye.

63 • Other Poetry


bud weis er

Suggested Use:

– Reading depends on the sound of the voices of bull-frogs.

– Take away the sense of words, both literal and figurative senses.

– Repeat it to produce the images and ideas.

Thơ Khác • 64


65 • Other Poetry



Thơ Khác • 66


“Chinh Phu Ngam” (“The Song of a Warrior’s Wife”, 1741) is a lam-entation written by Dang Tran Con in Han characters and free verse, with long and short sentences, and was translated into Nom by Doan Thi Diem (1705-1748). Dang Tran Con (1715?-1745?), exact dates of birth and death unknown, was reputed to be liberal minded, to like wine, and to be a good poet. During his period, the Le emperor and Trinh Lord enforced strict rules regulating such things as no fire at night. To avoid punishment for breaking this regulation, Dang Tran Con dug a shelter in the ground and lit lamps to read books under cover of earth. When the Trinh Lords took power, they entrusted much power in eunuchs who abused their privilege and oppressed the people. Hostilities broke out throughout the country. The mandarins sent in soldiers to crush these rebellions. These soldiers had to renounce their homes, wives and children, and were often killed in battle. Dang Tran Con wrote these famous Chinh Phu Ngam epic poems, which have been handed down through many generations.

67 • Other Poetry



Thơ Khác • 68



69 • Other Poetry




Thơ Khác • 70



71 • Other Poetry




73 • Other Poetry




Stephen John Kalinich

i read them in one sitting and was transformed they flow the poems

i love them they are simple and complex they flow like a little stream and at times

a great mighty river runs through them

you are to be commended or what within you that is you and not you is to be commended

the you in you

that wrote the verses and rediscovered the lines that feel like they were revealed..

your poems have grown and they are stark and beautiful like a slender willow or a tree branch with a few leaves but strong roots into the nature of things like bamboo

seeing through and beyond yet in and not getting attached to illusion

that what we experience is life

but is a dream like suffering and awakening of mankind woman-kind the road to kindness

lies with us and yet what is not within us are we not even within our own within for is not everything within us

what we know

God can only be where we are

this door

through which we perceive ourselves

and express ourselves we are the door and window we are nothing but floating images of clouds and colors smoke and the Thơ Khác • 74

transitory nature is the beauty and

ye yes you capture and hint of that in the poems and take the attentive reader-listener’s experience beyond the images and the words

and one becomes the experience

of reading your poems and viewing them one finds that you are willing to let them go and not attached to them you are not screaming like many poets... poets look at me

i am something

your are sharing your journey and there is much beauty in the simplicity of your expression

for a chair

is a chair and not a chair and stairs are stairs but going no where i think once i

wrote a song about stairs a thousand lifetimes ago and mirrors surround me in your poems

and every where I see myself and feel myself and i am trapped in that knowing

and there is the door to my liberation for we are one and we experience ourselves

we are these kinds of beings and believe that you have captured this in these lovely snap shots of your soul and the death of a son to a mother is something

that one can not really talk about


one has lived it walked this path

you hint that there are no words for life and these things and it draws one to the beauty

of the silence

water on a lake

water on

an ocean

75 • Other Poetry

no ears to hear the sound

no eyes to see the beauty

or the ugliness

and a glimpse of hope emerges

and life has joy and is to be taken lightly and enjoyed, yes my friend i enjoyed these poems you can quote me.




i am seldom hear from you these days and it is not necessary but this was a good exchange and i wish you well..

for there is no you and me

only us


for the greatest poem

is the silence ...

Thơ Khác • 76


“Bud weis er”

Drawing by Đinh Cường

77 • Other Poetry


“Bud weis er”

Drawing by Lê Thánh Thư

Thơ Khác • 78


Bud wei ser

Drawing by Nguyễn Đại Giang

79 • Other Poetry


Khế Iêm

Design by Nguyễn Đăng Thường

Thơ Khác • 80


Khế Iêm

Drawing by Đinh Cường

81 • Other Poetry

Thơ Khác • 82



83 • Other Poetry