by Lam Thi My Da
Translated by Martha Collins and Thuy Dinh
Last night a bomb exploded on the veranda
But sounds of birds sweeten the air this morning
I sense the fragrant trees, look in the garden
Find two silent clusters of ripe guavas
The above is an understated and beautiful little four-line poem by the Contemporary Vietnamese poet Lam Thi My Da, which suggests that war may test the truth of Keats's claim but does not refute it ( I mean here-: A thing of beauty is a joy forever:/ Its loveliness increases; /It will never pass into nothingness. )
Like a tiny metaphysical poem by Marvel or Donne, the quatrain creates an argument that hinges on the word ‘but’ at the start of the second line.
Despite all the odds and tragic happenings around, the poem shows man’s capacity to imbibe joy from nature and appreciate nature’s power to nourish, rejuvenate and restore us. The positive image of cluster of guavas nicely contrasts with the negative of cluster of bombs. Yes, Some shape of beauty moves away the pall/From our dark spirits.(Keats)
Ref: Six Vietnamese Poets: Edited by Nguyen Ba Chung (Author), Kevin Bowen (Author).Curbstone books.