Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Dry Dung Collector

The Dry Dung Collector

By Nguyet Pham

Dirt clods, dry straw, and reed spread out to dry
Rain falls sparingly, intensifying the heat
that erodes, exudes

I search for a turbid stream that appeared to me in a dream
But find only the quiet dike suppressing the water's angry rush
Among lotus fragrant and white like a young girl's bosom
I search for my aunt—quick of feet, redolent of rice paddy, grass
Always ready with her afternoon sweets every time I return
The last time I returned
I did not see the vendors with their poles and baskets
Save those who bent low, lower, behind the thick rumps of cattle,
To collect dung that barely had a chance to dry
My wrinkled aunt who seemed to shrink smaller with each day fought to buy her share of cow dung
Everyone eagerly collected dung, heaping sadness, joy, love, and hatred onto the moving truck
Gone are the little docile cows with sad pretty eyes
Gone are the insolent peasants who mocked the ostentatious way of gentlefolk
Gone are my five-year-old self's memories amidst the noise of dung being scooped
Gone are dung pellets on roads filled with sugarcane
Gone are fried sesame cakes and molasses-brown spoons of sugar
Gone is the scent of the countryside
Auntie still rushes off to buy me snacks
But everything has changed.

Translated by Thuy Dinh


Nguyet Pham

Born in 1982, Nguyet Pham graduated with a degree in linguistics from the College of Sciences, Social Studies and the Humanities, Ho Chi Minh City. She penned the chapbook Paper Eye (Trẻ Publishing House, 2008) and is one of the authors featured in the poetry anthology Non-Weather Report (Vietnam Writers' Association Publishing House, 2005). She has been honored with the Bút Mới literary award. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in many prestigious Vietnamese literary journals. She currently works as an editor in Ho Chi Minh City.

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