Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Born in the Year of the Buffalo

Born in the Year of the Buffalo

By Ha Van Tinh

For Auntie Thúy

Under the cottage by the mango tree
Big Auntie, Mother, Little Auntie came forth
From the perfect arc of Grandma's double-skirt.
Grandma's cradle songs were full of lament
She tried to smile, hiding her tears.
Famine in the Year of the Monkey
Dried up Grandma's breasts; Big Auntie hungry, relentless.
Mother and Little Auntie were raised on bananas
French bullets whizzed by, deafening.

While the bombs rumbled
Little Auntie married
She stepped onto a boat beneath a dew-whitened sky
To cross a big river full of waves
Grandpa and Grandma had nothing to give her
Save their tears and empty hands.
Little Auntie toiled, her fate being the buffalo's
She toiled in neglect,
She toiled to survive
To bear and raise children
Girls, girls, and girls
Whips were raised often, to beat her down, down, down
The little cottage writhed under her pain.
Three times the mango tree shed its leaves
Grandpa and Grandpa wrote but received no reply
Downing their meal of rice and pickled eggplants,
They looked into the far distance with their cataract eyes.

The first homeward letter arrived
Accompanied by an owl's mournful song
White dew became mourning bands
Dear Auntie Thúy
Big Auntie brings you home on the placid river
The gates of paradise radiate with young mango leaves
Susurrating, the mango trees sing Grandma's lullabies
Over a jade lawn dotted with flame-colored grass.

Translated by Thuy Dinh


Ha Van Tinh was born on February 26, 1992, in Xuân Hòa hamlet, Vũ Thư district, Thái Bình Province. While his parents are both farmers, Ha Van Tinh loves books and would like to become a professional writer. He studied Publishing and Distribution at the Culture University of Hanoi.

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