5 POEMS by ĐẶNG THÂN from Vietnam

1/ The Shock to Root


the time when

the hairs

of the legs

were stubbly…

How is it

they are now


Why are they

still growing

after being

pulled out?

Where’s the root?

Where’s the root…


Oh, note!
An Oriental Guru sat thinking about
The root of the universe.
The answer came to him when he accidentally pulled out a leg hair.
He then sang and later shared this verse:
EveryThing comes from NoThingness –

Both are an eternal pair.


2/ Misted with Life


under the illusory canopy




break away

in the mist


in the must


through the darkness

loosely crickets blowing woodwinds with zest

[lightened with everlasting alcohol]

fireflies spreading light

never rest

the weaker sex always enjoys longer sex life

the strong heroes often have short lives

a symphony

played by an orchestra

of hylas


old toad

the conductor


Thai porridge

bubbly and sweet

slipping through

the empty night



the bell



3/ hmmtransitionalseason

As spring passes, summer arrives, tender bamboo shoots beg for purity, golden kites hovering in breezes, blowing boisterously, giving haste to young chests when the winds die down. Obsessed with radiant days and flames that rise to heaven, resting inside heavy hearts, leaving one’s hollow holes becoming one with rain drops propping up the sky. The sea is made smooth, its waves left, beginning and ending, rising – their roots assembling, then overflowing over and over again. Oh, my dear – how the season thaws and softens with meandering mud bleeding red into the snow; stagnant morning dew made from when earth and fire were formed thousands of years ago. Love sprouts and blooms as fire and water rush by, robbers and thieves whisper words in the wind blowing from the highlands to the mountainside. Yellow lights are hung by pink flamingo birds as the phoenixes descend onto red mounts; fire, wind and life gather as guitars are heard. Tao curves and forthright hearts cross, drying up only to become wet again. How perpetually life floats by in lullabies, flags and banners, blowing up dust, leaving the disloyal alone to their heats’ content. In early summer as bamboo rises to thunder’s beautiful youthful songs, notes falling into soup pots one by one, cooking themselves into the sky beyond, rustling high up into the sunshine, throwing columns of invisible smoke up into the air and my mind.


4/ BeWILDeredness

You and I have sure been in a bewildered state of mind countless times.

This can be the perfect state of all existences. Einstein was wrong to declare a world of relativity. The realm of bewilderedness seems to be the holy cave of absolutism. This cave is real. God Almighty becomes the greatest creator in the universe thanks to moments of bewilderment. Prior to the Big Bang the universe was sure dumbfounded, and up to now it has been expanding in an unreasonably expansive daze. So the world came into being in a moment of stupefaction. Many weak countries gained their independence while their ferocious enemies were stuporous. Quite a few nations suddenly lost their sovereignty, lands and waters just because they were continually perplexed. A good number of men of relic turned out to be confused owing to puzzlements dexterously set by the Creator. Some other pretty numbers of women of chastity accidentally became suspects for getting into bafflement. Some of the cruelly wicked became genies thanks to befuddlement. Several whores achieved sainthood since being granted God-sent minutes of discombobulation. We’ve heard of stories about genuine men who reached nirvana after too long days of muddle-headedness. I myself was born in a khana in space and time when my parents were startled. Who would object to all that? You seem to be stunned all! At this very moment there must be something of extreme creativity occurring here and there, isn’t there? Who dares answer? Yes or no?

It’s me who is writing these preciously addled lines in a bewildered state of mind…


5/ Decades of Harsh Times


“Boom boom” was the sound of thousands of bombs around the time I was born

“Screech screech” was the lullabies of numerous rockets in whose twang I was stuck

Stamping noises were made by marching corpses blown alive by the spectrum of war

Glorified medals were seen on uniformed chests of withered-grass-colour in lifeless cadence


Those sentences of spontaneous verse have just been made between two poles: Vietnam and America

The in-between was soaked in blood still stained

on trees

rice fields

and even dreams

On the boats full of refugees escaping the homeland in deep, deep pain

A wound that persists and pains half the globe

and a stormy part of a century

Forming blood slicks on the Pacific on El Niño days

and on the Indian Ocean in tsunami

Leaving behind silly souls, resentment and piles of mean greediness

While Agent Orange smog blends together with azure smoke coming out from late-afternoon kitchens

Slanting figures of Giao Chỉ[1], half-Việt Cộng[2] and half-Việt Kiều[3] are risking their lives in

stepping on

putrid historical bridges

Rice seedlings keep growing up on decomposed stubbles

Ghosts are still seen singing and being fed

And we ourselves are dying each day so as to live

30 Apr 05[4]


[1] Giao Chỉ: one of ancient names of Vietnam.

[1] Việt Cộng: Vietnamese communists.

[1] Việt Kiều: overseas Vietnamese.

[1] 30 April 1975: the day the Vietnam War ended.



鄧紳 | Dang Than (越南)

He is a notable bilingual poet, fiction writer and essayist of Vietnam. As “the typical figure of Post-Doi Moi Literature”, he is also “the best humourist ever”. Unfortunately, his works were considered “harmful” by governmental publication organisations. Among his many poetry anthologies, only one was published entitled No Sense (2014). The New York-based Poets & Writers wrote, “Dang is praised for his idiosyncratic prose and rebellious style.” His officially-printed works in various genres have created the utmost important turning-point in writing style of Vietnamese literature. As the representative of a completely-new way of discourse with alternative lexical resources of connotation rather than denotation, he pioneers Vietnamese alliteration poetry and a new style named “phac-nhien” that might partly mean rawly-natural.



[1] Giao Chỉ: one of ancient names of Vietnam.

[2] Việt Cộng: Vietnamese communists.

[3] Việt Kiều: overseas Vietnamese.

[4] 30 April 1975: the day the Vietnam War ended.

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