Anonymous: Four Vietnamese Poems

The Temple Novice

Here am I, a temple novice, very respectful, very
   good.
And I will set fire to all the temples and be free!
I will treat myself, gorge myself on dogs meat;
I will stick out my shaft to ford every stream that
   flows by,
and proclaim to the North and to the East:
Unmarried women, your Messiah has come!

Poor Matchmaking

I’m climbing a ladder with a stick to catch you,
old Man in the Moon, and give you ten whacks.
After the beating I’ll lash you to a tree
and give you the third degree:
Is this what you call a red thread?
Here’s for your threads linking East and North!
Here’s more for the ones binding husbands and wives!
Do I deserve an old hag, you matchmaking moron?
I’m climbing a ladder with a torch to burn down your
    house,
old bungler, old Man in the Moon.

Lullaby

When will it ever be March?
Then frogs will bite snakes and drag them to the
   fields,
Tigers will lie down for swine to lick their fur,
Ten persimmons will swallow an octogenarian,
A handful of steamed rice will devour a ten-year-old
   child,
A chicken and wine jar will gulp down a drunkard,
Eels will lie still, swallowing the bamboo traps,
A band of grasshoppers will chase after the fish,
Rice seedlings will jump up and eat the cows,
Grasses will crouch and ambush the buffaloes,
Chicks will chase kites,
Sparrows will track down pelicans
And break their feathered necks.

Wanderlust

Moonlight splashed over the earth;
my prick poised, I went wandering.
Met with a flock of mallards;
stretched my bow, sent my shaft to its mark.
Met with a rosy-aproned girl
carrying rice to a temple;
reached out, grabbed her bobbing breasts.
“Easy, young man! Go easy!
You’re spilling my rice!”
That was the thirtieth of the month.
Next day, the first,
she brought her rice offering to Buddha,
but Shakyamuni turned away.
His lenient smile seemed to say,
“Who could refrain from touching
one of the Three Treasures?”

Translated by Nguyen Ngoc Bich

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