PLEASE DON'T GROW UP QUICKLY,

Young lady, look at you, I'm moved.
At thirteen, you're so lovely.
Starry eyes, rose lips, silky hair.
Oh, a rose bud in the early morning.
Though you're growing so quickly
but I wish you to not to leave childhood too soon.
Starry eyes but not seducing glances.
Rose lips gentle but inviting.
Please keep your fragrant hair from getting into someone's eyes.
If you want to love somebody,
Love your friends and your teachers and your family.
Inside your young mind,
Please be school life only.
Candies and cookies,
Please still love them.
It means please do not grow up so quickly.
Please do not yet experience how to fall in love.
Love sparkles like diamonds.
But love can also glisten like tears.
Be careful, you are beautiful and talented.
But misfortune usually accompanies god's gifts.
You will break many hearts
but bring happiness to just one.
Being an adult is not easy.
So many of life's burdens to carry.
You will feel sad, you will sigh.
You will regret your childhood gone by.
Be a bud, not yet a flower.
Be innocent, be carefree.
Go very slowly, the golden days.
Don't grow up so quickly, my young lady.


Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

SPRING HAS COME, MY DEAR

This morning, on the way to visit my dad,
I saw many swallows circling the green field.
Oh, swallows.
Spring has come!
No wonder the flowers and the leaves and the grass are dancing happily.
But, my dear,
My dad had died before I had a chance to give him a little spring.
And the spring of my life has not yet come.
Anyway,
I should be happy together with the nature's happiness.
And I am also happy
every time I think of somebody
that every time she smiles at me,
I feel a spring breeze.


Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

SHE AND THE PIANO


It used to be
every time I walked past her home,
I heard her piano sound.
Now
it's quiet.
The piano is still there,
but where is she?

Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

TUYET 13-TUYET 19

Tuyet 19 is standing there.
6 years have passed.
I look at her confusedly:
where is Tuyet 13?
Her hands are reaching for the dream.
Her eyes are full of stars.
Her breast is full of vitality.
Her lips cherry flowers.
I just stand and stare at her
without a word.
If it was old days before,
I would come touch her cheeks and hold her shoulders.
6 years, oh, 6 years
are a magic wand to her:
it changed her from a child
to a stunning young lady.
But 6 years are just 6 years
of misery to me:
broke and disillusioned,
moonlight has got into my hair.


Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

THE ROMANTIC PIRATE

I want to be a pirate,
waiting for you on your way to escape.*
I will rob nobody
but kidnap you only.
Take you to my island
to make myself King you Queen.
We will let boatpeople in
on one condition:
be our loyal subjects.
Your hair smells wild flowers.
Coconut juice sweetens your lips.
Ocean waves are your lullaby.
Pink sky embraces blue water.
Silver moon gleams through palm leaves.
We'll have children and grandchildren.
The desert island will become our old homeland.


Hoang Hai Ho

* this poem was written when the exodus of Vietnamese boatpeople was in full gear.

 

 

ADIEU JOLIE VAN
(inspired by my friend's love story)

Jolie Van, black silky eyes
comforted my soul for a long time.
Life was nice just because of those eyes
until one Thursday morning.
I lost you one Thursday morning,
saw you off to a far away land.
Tamarind leaves fell incessantly from a cloudy sky.
Adieu, adieu jolie Van.
Since then, every Thursday morning,
every Thursday morning, every Air France flight
and every time I go past Air Transportation Agency,
I feel sad and my mind starts wandering.


Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

RAIN ON THE PRISON'S ROOF

I heard that rain is beautiful in California?
Light shower in the spring sunshine,
The vineyards are so green ...
Do you remember the old rainy days of Vietnam?
The old Saigon rain, we shared the raincoat.
Hugging each other, walking through narrow streets of wet tamarind trees.
The steaming sweetsoup bowl warmed our hands.
I hoped the rain would not stop, so you would not go home.
The old Saigon rain, we shared the raincoat.
You were listening to the music, I was sensing the good smell from your hair.
It was just a light shower to cool off the night.
You. The rain. The music. How nice life was.
My dear, now it is the sad rain on the prison's roof.
It is downpouring, but the cell is still stuffy with body heat.
I wish it rained on my body.
Thinking of the old rainy days, I want to cry ...


Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

YOU HIT MY LOVE SPOT*

Your sharp glance hit my Love spot,
I fell for you.
Your sharp glance hit my Love spot,
I got lovesick.
I lost my appetite and my sleep.
Your sharp glance hit my Love spot.
I was already skinny,
now I am even skinnier.
Your sharp glance hit my Love spot.
Love spot is close to Death spot.
Will you let me die?
Your sharp glance hit my Love spot.
Only you can cure my lovesickness.
My dear, please save my life!


Hoang Hai Ho


* Acupuncturists believe that body energy flows through many vital body spots, or meridians. A Love spot is just my imaginary meridian for Love.

 

 

GOODBYE OR FAREWELL ?

I saw him off, to a faraway land.
I tried to hold my feelings.
That morning, it was sunny,
yet I felt like rainstorm.
I have seen too many departures.
Bid farewell to family, who can stay calm?
One by one, they sneaked out of country
to escape the huge jail, to cut off family ties.
Nobody promised to return,
despite those who stay behind would miss them so much.
I knew that he felt sad the day before:
he had not been long with his new wife,
and he would not see his new child.
Would he ever see them again?
I knew that he felt sad that morning:
his old mother was like a flickering candle,
his little sister would lose her supporting brother.
He would go but it broke his heart.
Off he went, really.
To me, he considered like losing his arms.
To his mother, he considered himself a disowned son
and to his little sister, he asked me to take care of.
Let him go, I let him go.
Let him free from chains and rebuild his life.
Would I see him again or no?
At least, with him, I had a happy time.


Hoang Hai Ho
Saigon 18/4/1985.

(On behalf of my wife Lam and other sacrificing wives)

 

 

WAKING UP FROM THE 10-YEAR NIGHTMARE

Waking up from the 10-year nightmare,
I find white on my hair.
I look for my life,
but my life has changed.
Waking up from the 10-year nightmare,
I look for my relatives.
Some are still alive, some are dead.
Children have grown up.
Waking up from the 10-year nightmare,
I look for the old eyes.
Her eyes are still captivating,
but she is now married.
Waking up from the 10-year nightmare,
I look for the old close friend.
He is a somebody now,
I dare not approach.
Waking up from the 10-year nightmare,
I look for a new country to live.
My people are now scattering all over the globe,
where should I choose?
Waking up from the 10-year nightmare,
I have mixed feelings.
Nightmare is now gone,
but my old life is gone too.


Hoang Hai Ho
(Galang Refugee Camp 30/4/1985)

 

 

LATE

Finally, I came to Galang Refugee Camp,
Like you had done once.
But I came 6 years late, so it's useless
because you are now married.
Which barrack did you stay in?
Which sand did you put your feet on?
I chased you in the right direction
yet the distance is now too great.
If somebody is going to her new country
and has a chance to meet her,
please tell her my message:
It's not her fault not to keep her promise.
It's my fault to come too late.

Hoang Hai Ho

 

TROP TARD

Enfin à Galang je suis tout de même parvenu,
Là où jadis tu étais une fois arrivée.
J'arrive six ans plus tard et tout est fichu.
J'arrive quand tu t'es déjà mariée.

Dans quelle baraque as-tu vécu?
Sur quel banc de sable as-tu laissé l'empreinte de tes pas?
C’est exactement par ce chemin que je t'ai poursuivie.
Mais il nous reste maintenant une distance infinie.

Demain si quelqu'un revient à ce pays
Et la retrouve que mon message lui soit transmis:
Ce n'est pas toi qui as manqué à ta promesse
Mais c'est moi qui suis arrivé six ans plus tard.

(Traduit par Kim Thanh)

 

 

WAR-TIME GIRL

Like the newly-bloomed flower,
Like the sea in early sunny morning,
That year of nineteen seventy five,
You were just sixteen.

Life smiled on you,
You smiled carelessly, too.
Oh, looking at bright spring,
Who thinks of autumn clouds?

Autumn clouds came so soon
When devils took power.
You noble, fair, young lady
Now experience dust of life.*

Love, you no longer care.
Just incessantly think of escape.
Ten years passed like a nightmare.
Your smile now, oh, thoughtful.

So many pursuers,
But you pay attention to none.
The only sweetheart you're waiting for is FREEDOM.

I keep looking for you
Among new comers from Kuku**
For many, many times
But you're still out of sight.

This afternoon, by letter from home,
I learned that they've put you in prison.
Oh, my poor girl.


Hoang Hai Ho
(Galang refugee camp, 14/1/1986)

*After South Vietnam was taken over by the Communist North, life became so miserable for South Vietnamese people (concentration camps, hunger, repression etc.)
**Kuku was a transit point where boatpeople stayed shortly before they were transferred to Galang refugee camp (Indonesia).

 

AQ CAFÉ


I'm back after 19 years.
The cafe is beautiful but I feel sorrow.
Your old home is so close from here.
But where are you now?

Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

THE OLD DREAM REFUSES TO DIE

The witnessing moon has gone
with you to America or Australia.
So much water has passed under the bridge
yet my dream refuses to die
and I still feel sad sometimes.

Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

LY AND LAMBRETTA

I was then a young fellow,
just madly in love with Lý.
So meek and mild I was
that I lost her out to Liêm.

My school days were spent
daydreaming of a Lambretta.
With a good job after I graduated,
the scooter seemed not too far-fetched

Then life was suddenly turned upside down
when the war ended.
With both beautiful dreams broken,
I fled to the West.

Looking at the Lambretta today,
I am still sad about old dreams.
The scooter now I may,
but how can I find her again?

Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

A HAIKU POEM

cherry blossoms,
your face -
pink

Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

THOUSAND-ISLANDS LAND


Why I am here, the land of two thousand islands.
The mountain stone-carved poem is mostly gone.
Who won, who lost, it doesn't care.
White clouds still flow for another thousand years.

Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

AN OLD TEMPLE BY THE RIVER

An old temple by the river.
The wanderer stopped by
then stayed permanently,
as life became trivial.
An old temple by the river,
seen from the river flow,
now you see it, now you don't.
It's there but it's not there.


Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

BESIDE YOU, I FEEL PEACE OF MIND

No matter how much worry I have during the day,
At night, beside you, I feel easy.
Because over thirty years, on the treacherous river of life,
Our boat has always been steady.
We have endured long years of separation.
We have overcome challenges and hardship,
Then ten or twenty more years
Will just be water under the bridge.

Hoang Hai Ho

 

THE NUN

The world is full of chaos,
With you it even gets more.
Buddha brought you to his house.
But then his house is full of gossip.

Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

THE OLD HIGHLAND TOWN

I am back, the old highland town.
Stopped by the lake, on the water surface,
I was seeing you again, pink cheeks, red lips...
Then suddenly it down-poured.

Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

THREE WINTERS

Today Calendar Winter starts,
But Real Winter started one month ago,
And Human Winter has lasted many decades.
When natural winter causes troubles, people make a lot of noises,
yet Human Winter keeps going on quietly...

Hoang Hai Ho

 

 

A SILLY POEM

My dear,
If March looks like December,
Why can't we look like thirty even though we are sixty?

Hoang Hai Ho


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