Monday, January 22, 2018

Bomb Crater Sky
by Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ
Translated by Martha Collins and Thuy Dinh

They say that you, a road builder
Had such love for our country
You rushed out and waved your torch
To call the bombs down on yourself
And save the road for the troops

As my unit passed on that worn road
The bomb crater reminded us of your story
Your grave is radiant with bright-colored stones
Piled high with love for you, a young girl

As I looked in the bomb crater where you died
The rain water became a patch of sky
Our country is kind
Water from the sky washes pain away

Now you lie down deep in the earth
As the sky lay down in that earthen crater
At night your soul sheds light
Like the dazzling stars
Did your soft white skin
Become a bank of white clouds?

By day I pass under a sun-flooded sky
And it is your sky
And that anxious, wakeful disc
Is it the sun, or is it your heart
Lighting my way
As I walk down the long road?

The name of the road is your name
Your death is a young girl’s patch of blue sky
My soul is lit by your life

And my friends, who never saw you
Each has a different image of your face.

The Vietnamese poet Lam Thi My Da is the author of five collections of poems in Vietnam, as well as Green Rice (Northwestern University Press, 2005), translated by Martha Collins and Thuy Dinh. Widely recognized as one of Vietnam’s major poets, she is the recipient of two awards from the Vietnamese Writers’ Association and the highest honors from the National United Board of Vietnamese Literature and the Arts. She comes from Quang Binh Province, in the central part of Vietnam, an area that saw a great deal of fighting during the war.

Set in the Vietnam War, this heart wrenchingly beautiful poem reminds us that bomb craters are never empty, but, for the people whose lives they affect, they are filled with everything and everyone they destroy. The poem is an elegy for a fellow female soldier who was blown apart by a bomb.

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