Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Time's Storm

Time's Storm

By Nguyen Huu Hong Minh

For My Aunt, Nguyen Thi My Kiem

Half my family, half the war
You shouldered half the imprisoned sky
While we ate rice, you and our cousins consumed Job's Tears
My uncle practiced self-criticism in a labor reeducation camp
The Americans arrived and departed,
Leaving behind South Vietnam -- a stranded serpent
Saigon oh Saigon, chafed and numbed by grief
Filled with mad women whose children were struck down by the sea
Where ragged ships blew their lonely horns of defeat
My aunt was neither mad nor sane
She collected her children—parts of her womb, her gut
Running, digging her way out of death, finding ways to raise the young ones
She brought the dawn into their wild vacant eyes
The Americans arrived and departed,
Leaving behind a generation banded by mourning,
Leaving behind the women whirling like basket boats driven by time's storm
They sold their wedding bands
Their dignity, chastity, humanity
To feed their incarcerated husbands, stripped of their South Vietnamese ranks and counting corpses in slaughterhouses
Waiting for their number in the rainstorm of rehabilitation
Good, honest women like my aunt
Inhaled chalk dust, drained of blood, stood exhausted at their teaching podiums
To nourish ships with gaping mouths
Ships that swallowed the sky whole
To quell hunger like a sharp-taloned hawk
The children grew up, their future black like ink
Gun barrels, invisible, stared at them still
Auntie marched among the bullets
Tradition, the past
Rainstorms with no name
Nothing would dim the flame in her eyes
This flame remains at twilight
When her hair has faded like ash
Proof of hope
The storm has ceased, on my aunt's face
A sweet smile bears the marks of time
Wounds have healed
But prayers still carry traces of the storm,
Lightning flashes at the far horizon
Echoing yesterday's shattering howl
Portrait of a woman, my aunt
Pushed and pulled by half a war
Half prison
Half sky
Not erased by time's storm….
Saigon, 2.3.2013

Translated by Thuy Dinh


Nguyen Huu Hong Minh

Nguyen Huu Hong Minh was born in 1972, in Đà Nẵng Province. He has published five poetry collections to date: Vague Voices (1999), Grounding Essence and Other Poems (2002), Word Reservoir (2002), History's Gap (2003), and Your Name in the Wind (2010). He is also the author of three short-story collections, a novel, and a book of essays. Hong Minh composes music and is the author of a number of songs. His poetry and essays have been translated into English, German, French, and Korean. His works have been featured in a number of international literary festivals including Literaturwerkstatt, (Germany, 2005), Foyer du Vietnam (France, 2005), Vesamo (Korea, 2006), and Amstedamworldbookcapital (Holland, 2008). His literary prizes include the Short Story Award from Tiền Phong Newspaper (1990), the Bút Mới poetry prize from Tuổi Trẻ Newspaper (1996), and the poetry prize from the Sông Hương Literary Magazine (2002).

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