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Poem - The Stream of our Native Land

After The Third Chopstick came out, I discovered that Song had written a poem about his thoughts and feelings during the war. Song and Ed Tick translated it together for publication in the Close Encounters in War Journal in 2021. It is reproduced here in both English and Vietnamese versions.

The Stream of our Native Land *

by Trần Đình Song

The fields in March are full of sunfish and catfish.

In October they are deep in floodwater from the Thu Bon River.

The seeds of our childhood were sown into these fields.

The mountains and rivers of our native land formed the soul of our youth.

We used to look for crickets singing in these fields.

We hid them in our school bags on the opening day of the term.

The rage-fever tortured the body of our Mother

As much as the bombs and bullets our native land.

When the human voice is disguised in the color of cobras,

When ugly worms are disguised in the color of roses,

Ideology disguises our country,

The 17th Parallel divides our nation like a rod beating our waist.

We keep losing our classmates.

Some of us stay on this side, some turn to the opposite,

And some are driven mad in this immense moment,

Their crazy laughter crackling like shards of glass.

Now we former classmates face each other in the fields,

Some carry AKs, others bayonets.

We all hear the crickets singing the song of bone and blood.

And the smell of mud brings back our childhood.

Now bullets are loaded in our rifles.

We scream by the stream banks of our poor land.

In this moment, only man-to-man, no longer friend-to-friend,

Look at our school burning in white flames.

As bullets penetrate our lungs

And life bleeds out of our bodies, please smile.

Although we stand on opposite firing lines

We still share the common streams of our native land.

* Newly translated by Edward Tick and Tran Dinh Song.


Dòng suối quê hương **

by Trần Đình Song

Cánh đồng tháng Ba cá rô cá diếc,

Cánh đồng tháng Mười dậy nước Thu Bồn.

Tuổi ấu thơ cánh đồng ươm mạch sống,

Tuổi thiếu niên sông núi tiếp linh hồn.

Cánh đồng đó tìm dế than, dế lửa,

Chúng mình dấu trong cặp sách tựu trường.

Cơn sốt dữ hành hung thân xác Mẹ,

Đạn bom nào cày nát quê hương.

Khi tiếng nói ngụy trang trong rắn lục,

Khi loài sâu ngụy trang màu hoa hồng.

Lý thuyết nào đã ngụy trang đất nước,

Roi hận thù vĩ tuyến quất ngang hông.

Những thằng bạn bây giờ còn được mấy,

Đứa rẽ bên này, đứa ngoặc bên kia,

Đứa đứng sửng giữa mênh mông hiện tại,

Chuỗi cười điên từng mãnh vỡ chia lìa.

Những thằng bạn bây giờ đối diện,

Đứa lưỡi lê, thẵng mã tấu gườm nhau.

Ôi con dế nào ca lời cốt nhục,

Mùi bùn đen thơm kỷ niệm ngày xưa.

Thôi viên đạn đã lên nòng sắp bắn,

Hãy reo lên hỡi dòng suối quê nghèo.

Người với người thôi nói chi bè bạn,

Nhà ta xưa lửa trắng bập bùng reo!

**Original Vietnamese written in 1966, early in the American War.

"Cua Viet River", Vietnam, January 1968 From the Douglas A. Yeager Collection (COLL/5039) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division OFFICIAL USMC PHOTOGRAPH is licensed under CC BY-

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