Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

To My Youngest Aunt

To My Youngest Aunt

By Le Vinh Tai

there are cats that don't know their youngest aunt's face
but poetry knows
Mom dies
Auntie buys poetry a pair of shoes
poetry runs and runs
until its shoes are nearly torn to shreds
poetry likes to watch
Auntie likes to walk
when poetry runs by
Auntie says: look at your shoes
poetry runs and runs
it doesn't stop
poetry remembers, poetry runs and runs
its shoes are like this life
Auntie waves and wishes it luck
all the books die
Auntie knows
poetry has to bow down before its audience
when can poetry stand up?

just as later on
poetry promises its wife
it won't sleep with anyone
except her

there are people who think poetry is gay, and
always someone wishing to fix poetry

Auntie knows that poetry is made of text
when poetry ends
it means that the miserable self
is engulfed in flames

when poetry loses sleep at night
Auntie helps with the writing

Auntie soothes the pain
at poetry's elbow
whenever poetry wants to become a novel
like its friend
Auntie speaks softly
like the blood that courses through poetry's brain
sleep please sleep ...

in Auntie's dreams
poetry is male
it cannot be bent or contorted
such an act would be fatal
Even if the train arrives late
poetry won't complain,
push or shove

small paths forged amidst wind and storm
amidst talented men
poetry walks its lively walk
Auntie doesn't want poetry
to sing silly slogans
even if that's how poetry lives
Auntie wishes that experimental poetry
would not chase after luck
Autie wants poetry to trust
its feet, just like it trusts
the shoes that Auntie buys
just like the way poetry knows
things that cats don't know
beyond chasing rats
Auntie knows poetry is growing up
and can take off its shoes
to walk barefoot in the
burning grass
it will be okay
Auntie cannot forgive
cannot make excuses

poetry can't always choose
when Auntie has to mill the rice and carry the little ones

by the way, poetry has a little sister
her name is Lê Thị Xuân Trang
Auntie says: sleeping is not death
fear has led poetry astray at times
from truth which seems like a pill
with haunting side effects

to the men who are swimming in midstream
while the women are still on land
what are we going to do
after decades of being swept along by wind and clouds?
Auntie knows
that it is not the fault of poetry's mother
that poetry must hide behind a door
and mark its corner with the color red
it's not the mother's fault
that men with eyes black as night, or blue as the sky
stand waiting in the wing to say I love you
before descending on poetry's tiny frame
my god he's as heavy as an elephant
Auntie does not forgive poetry
poetry is the last person
Auntie reminds it one more time
poetry has to promise
as if it's a matter of national security

Translated by Thuy Dinh


Le Vinh Tai

Le Vinh Tai was born in 1966, Ban Mê Thuột City, Daklak Province, Central Vietnam. He has published many poetry collections: Meditations on Rainy Afternoons (1991), Grain Husk and Wild Flower (with Uong Ngọc Dau, 1993), Six-Eight Love Poems to Phuong (with Pham Doanh, 1994), And Longing Starts with The Wind (2004), Burst into Warm Rain (epic poem, 2005), Connections (2006), Nights and Vu's Fragments (2008), and Poetry Asks Poetry (2008). Le Vinh Tai's poetry has been featured in many well-known poetry anthologies, such as Vietnamese Youth Poetry (1994-1998), Twenty Years of Selected Poetry from the Perfume River (2003), and Fifty Years of Selected Army Poetry (2007). Le Vinh Tai was honored in 2001 with a distinguished medal for his long career in literature and the arts. He also received an award from The Vietnamese Joint Association of Literature and the Arts in 2007 for his Connections chapbook.

Return To TOC