Only intricate lines and scarves of air between us
Author: Mai Văn Phấn
Published on: 9/21/2016 9:25:29 PM

A thousand dharmas come back to one, where does one go?




A small stream in the mountain

Flows steadily

Into a lake without a sound


Fish swim

Water remains at the same level

A kingfisher

Still perches

On a nearby tree top


At the throat of the outpouring stream

Waves gently expand in circles

And fade


The lake bottom is infinitely silent

As the mountain moves with the water.




A black fruit

Ripened high in the sky

Where lotuses

And chrysanthemums are blooming


My hair and shoulders are white

My stalk

Begins to turn yellow


Black areas are shrinking

Vanishing quickly


A hand

Buries me in a pit


Needing no water

I grow as a sapling in the desert.




I am a ceramic vase opening its mouth

To the outside world


Inside me

A garden is incubating seedlings

Early sunlight soaking

Each plant root


On a river bank

My feet touch the tide ebbing beneath

On a rising tide

Fish and shrimps just let go

Without swimming

A boat floats with no one paddling


I cannot sit for long

Water tapping on the sides of this boat

Birds calling from high above


Someone knocks hard

On the side of the vase.




A grandiose drop of water

Lying in a deep well


Concerto No. 1 in D minor by J.S. Bach

Falls into the well

Small drops of water

Carry green light


The green of rice seedlings


Banana buds

A field of young mulberry


It’s the season of chlorophyll

Born out of water drops

In the shape of green eggs



Overflowing the ground.




A glass of water

Is placed in front of the candle


Colorless light

Dropped from above

Shows the way for water to settle


The more transparent I become


Spike trap

Black arrows


From my soles and palms.




New day on the coast

The waves have receded

Leaving behind a clean stone slab


Somebody has come to step

And sit on it

Bird feces

And dust settling on it


At night

Water rises again and washes it


The sea

Is patient

In years.




I sit down

And drop flowers on water


Releasing them

On a surface vast

And clear



Ring through my body

Into the depth of water



I sink

Then emerge again.




The bowl of water and I are white

The ground an ancient yellow

The field in front

And the bell

Dark yellow


The tabby cat in the yard

Has white patches on its back


I ring the yellow


A white color spreads


The cat walks softly

Shaking sunlight all over the ground


It walks until

it is only a white spot.



- Mai Văn Phấn
- translation by Nhat-Lang Le
- edited by Susan Blanshard
-photo by
 Nguyễn Quốc Thành