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Morning larceny
Author: Lưu Diệu Vân
Published on: 5/30/2015 7:20:37 PM

We move with time, one endures life, through its ups and downs, its natural turmoil, yet in certain way retains the sensibilities of one's early years; this is beautiful when it occurs; and when it does, it seems to bring out the nourishment which comes from the poetic part of life. I often think of Lưu Diệu Vân's poetry in that light, it echoes the voices of the past, in a classic calm and even serene way, somehow resting above the ephemeral changes - which are part of this modern life – remaining its pure-at-heart. She seems to know the art of balancing between the inner conflicts and the ironies that come from the outside world, the ironies in the others and creates poems of exaltation. A language of passion, blended with a secret awareness of feelings and senses, the humour, the fineness, which all come meticulously to discover and unlock life. A feminist who has insights, ready to battle on, to be able to live a life in fullness, carrying huge capacity of love, a readiness to please even, ready to suffer other people's pains, taking pride in herself, in her own way.

- Khánh Phương, poet & literary critic - 

translated by Lưu Diệu Vân


My sister

My sister
Lưu Ý Nhi
15 years old
the prime age for pre-arranged marriage
if the night-sea escape has failed
perhaps she might be
lying leisurely in the hammock in the cashew grove
chanting folk songs
she knows the expressions, not the intentions, by heart
an ingénue waiting to intersect the threshold of womanhood
accepting it as a natural necessity of pedigree

My sister
Nancy Ynhi Luu
15 years old
growing up to be an au fait young woman
sexual health education
descriptive jargons
no traces of shyness
she criticizes her big sister’s
ignorance of tampon’s existence
forbids abashment in the family planning aisle 
novelty condoms in various colours, flavours, sizes, shapes
she lectures: not just for men
you must learn to protect yourself
gender equality
abortion rights
the Iraq war debate
legalization of same sex marriage
Nancy takes sides with courage

according to Nancy
is a glass of sugar cane juice with very little ice worth 30 cents
female labourers with a heavy body stench accepting routine beatings from their husbands like cultural norms 
timid farmers, drained of fighting will to claim their own land

to Nancy
is a feeble black dot on the robust map of the world 

Those are the times
Y Nhi forgets she possesses a tiny dark mole on a great pectoral canvas


morning larceny

morning breaks in routinely
sometimes through the scythe-locked bedroom door
but mostly, invisibly
smelled of composted grass, widdershin dandelion seeds, rotten leaves, frostbitten snow…
always wears the same oblique expression and worn-out optimism 

you would hear the phantasmagoric sound of glass shattering
without the sight or trail of prism blood
then the gray primitivity breaks in
leaving the supposed-witness silk curtains unawoken
morning would pass by the opened barren pages
dragging along the wispy thinning hair on the ecru pillow
ignoring the lonely boudoir mirror’s bitter reflection
cynical of regaining what was once fervorous 
the empty space of vexed abandonment 
and christian regrets spreads out like azrael’s comforting wings

music would follow cavorting shadows
life-tired, reality-blinded, future-shut eyes
morning would sink into an amputated armchair
hair undone, despair-braided
hearkening the garden of multiplying entanglement
lifeless order of routines
and judgmental tongues
waiting for the arrival of a valor-sharp incision

the birds abruptly cease singing
morning comes face to face with
a departed somnambulist


the rubric of life

today Paris takes on a new pseudonym
spins on a novel time zone
the sun reverses its course, drifts leisurely toward the little prince’s universe
there Tolstoi and Dostoyveski are closer than bloodline
the last woman in the social circle is pregnant
week fourteen
month of gender disclosure
month of redeye departure across the ocean
the scarlet umbrella smells of rose essence
of aged magazines and vintage postcards
gestating the burden of historical heritage
on this day, the parlay's initiated, two years after birth
the mademoiselle talks of an alliterated future with her aunt and uncle,
an imminent examination of the rotating rubik of life
yet solved, striated by the parting edges of the Seine
algorithm leaves traces on passports
ticket stubs capture the art of sight on express electric lines
clamped padlocks join forces
push the clef into the void
splatter crimson lipstick stains all over Cafe De Flores' porcelain brim
Sartre steals a look from Beauvoir
reflecting from mirrored walls of existentialism
ironic black berets sport intellectual air to accentuate an aura of desperation
she knots her tongue with the stem of his words 
exist, encounter, surge up, and define
peace remains earnest through many revolutionary farces
parallel to the tower of hope
prayers cry out in forty nine languages
echoing through the transparent gate of atomic remembrance
anyone can lean on Mona Lisa’s smile to establish a name
connection can channel greatness
her inquisition is continuous
his rumination is nonexistent
the axiom of belief, a wellspring of amity from within
there exists one unique rose and one universe, equally, for each of us


dolls & bicycles

the boys and girls of war dream of dolls and bicycles
and the letters that often contain selective truth
when peace is only skin deep
disjunction assaults the five senses
the smiling leaders shake hands on giant billboards
sign their names in pencil on the treaty
the entire race must bear its ideological debt
society continues to make soldiers out of it's citizens
sell sex with lipsticks
traffic potent drugs
unbridled lust is given a passing grade
to initiate a return to myth

Buddha is abandoned in the rush of great leaps forward
Jesus is forced to be an accomplice in the sparrow massacre
one hundred million sunflower seeds uproot from the tainted soil
searching for nourishment on the other side of the earth

babies cry themselves hoarse
resisting milk laced with sleeping pills
the poisonous lullaby of midnight escapes by sea
how many babies are left to collect lotus stickers
and red stars in clean notebooks of striking cursive?

extolling a victory that no history book validates
they offer prosperity as a painted doll face on a ripe womanly body
the lotus blossoms grow in contradictory direction of the sun
the dolls are trapped in the shining bicycle spokes
made of steel from the regime’s indifference
slide off a cliff as if by fate

a voice barks
who has desecrated the billboard poster with his bicycle wheels?
nineteen people bear witness
lying comatose on the ambulance stretcher
the truth can only be perceived in silence
the mobile execution vans accelerate toward a new battle front