Lam Thi My Da is one of Vietnam’s best known writers. She comes from Quang Binh Province, in the central part of Vietnam, an area that saw a great deal of fighting during the war. A graduate of the Writer’s College in Vietnam, she has worked as a reporter and a literary editor. She has written five books of poetry and her work, Dedicated to a Dream, received the highest honors from the National United Board of Vietnamese Literature and the Arts. Translations of her poems have been featured in Six Vietnamese Poets, published in the United States by Curbstone. She has also published three collections of stories for children.
A Piece of Sky Without Bombs
Your friends said that you, a roadbuilder,
had such love for our country, you rushed
down the trail that night, waving your torch
to save the convoy, calling the bombs down on yourself.
We passed by the spot where you died,
tried to picture the young girl you once had been.
We pitched stones up on the barren grave,
adding our love to a rising pile of stone.
I gaze into the center of the crater
where you died and saw the sky in the pool
of rain water. Our country is so kind:
water from the sky washes the pain away.
Now you rest deep in the ground,
quiet as the sky that rests in the crater.
At night your soul pours down,
bright as the stars.
I wonder, could it be your soft skin
changed into columns of white clouds?
Could it be that when we passed that day,
it was not the sun but your heart breaking through?
This jungle trail now bears your name;
the skies reach down to your death and touch it;
and we, who never saw your face,
each wear a trace of you, bright on our cheek.
(Translated by Ngo Vinh Hai and Kevin Bowen)
Excerpt from the Bomb-Crater Sky
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.
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.