Cột đèn sẽ thả lưỡi nói, “mừng đã về nhà"
The word unsearched, unsearchable
Author: Nguyễn Thúy Hằng
Published on: 5/30/2015 7:20:37 PM

Thuy Hang’s work sends you reeling, unhinges you a bit from sense and logic, as real poetry should. The physical world of these poems can be sharp as metal and claustrophobic, violent at times. But her characters possess a sensual power that flies in the face of rigidity, stagnancy, and death. They are mystics and visionaries who step freely from one world to another – or they simply inhabit both worlds simultaneously.

For those characters who have been quarantined, or who are trapped—because of illness, madness, war—the boundaries between real and imaginary, past and present, cease to exist.  In “sickness and bread” a patient on her sickbed finds that she has become the black bread in the spitting fireplace:

I puff up like firewood
flaring inside the oven, the bread breaks, blackish*

* slices of bread
burnt brown inside

The speakers of Thuy Hang’s poems are also sultry at times, impudent and bold. They are wanderers by choice, women who breathe smoke, and who are unafraid of their own sexual power. They also understand the duality of love and sexuality, how these forces can create but just as easily destroy:

I like to hurl myself any time onto new unknown women and flounder in / perpetuating darkness / I am the little lover who leaves the most striking and destructive marks

But sometimes the people in these poems, in spite of all their mystery, just want what the rest of us want. They long openly to be held and remembered. And this longing is made even more profound by the poet’s acute sense of impermance and exile, a sadness that permeates all of her work. It is in these moments when I love her poems best.

you should put me away into any place possible. if disappearance really happens and I suddenly turn into air, you should go back to this place, open the door to absorb all of me into your lungs.

- Claire Barnard


sickness & bread

behind my sick bed
holy foxes furiously challenge each other to spray urines on the wall,  manufacturing his face, x
dark and crude
round and long
x is laughing at someone
or x is chewing on a piece of black bread
it’s already the eighth week that I have been ill
the severed arm
the devilled piss
drop into a metal container
they bind a knife and garlic cloves to my armpits to fight away x
I am silent
I spit at x’s pale while and withered
the sick days
the slimy spittles
flow around the sole of my shoes
force themselves into the sole of my feet
I puff up like firewood
flaring inside the oven, the bread breaks, blackish*
* slices of bread
burnt brown inside
scattered underneath
x crosses the ground
crushes them further
I keep on poppingly explode inside the roasting pit
x ignores these displays** occurring behind him
the slaughterhouse
all of me that spews out is against x
** are they dancing suggestively, stamping the floor, marking me
through x, the devil comes closer, and takes a look at me, takes a look at me
(don’t come to the window
to watch my nerves shrink
here in the furnace
who sliced me and threw me on the grate?)

T3, 28/12/2004 evening

translated by Nguyễn Đức Nguyên


[words] - they are also a layer of the powder of the illusory

over the swamp, by a manifest with some lingeringness, she says

I am a scale, I can hold many emotions at once
because I am guided by the constellation of Venus so I am very wild in love, I am the most amorous among the 12 zodiac signs
I like to hurl myself any time onto new unknown women and flounder in perpetuating darkness
I am the little lover who leaves the most striking and destructive marks

destructive, vanishing, flirtatious are very correct words about me

with the experience of a seasoned interpreter, she continues to elaborate,

in the extending and out-spreading heat of September on the deserted field, same story as in History of a Traveler,
I will walk as a ghost, drifting like a curlew, sedimenting like ships
I will no longer take great care brushing my eyelashes, I will cook air to liquid in a city dweller’s manner,
or I will appear in the form of a bouquet of daisies in Saigon around the year 75
I will seduce people whose sexual orientation originates from an addiction to the beautiful, the romantic, and admiration for any individual, regardless of their gender
or I will be the cause for men to suddenly wear women’s shirts, make up and mingle brilliantly under the sun
but at the same time I will receive countless curses from most hetero classes, because I am the very acting chemical, a special chemical that can weaken their ovaries and reduce their sperm counts
with footsteps like ghosts slowly marching over swamplands,
I will exterminate all eggs by insects and manage to dissolve the seriousness of the official writers and all the art critics who are sitting glistening on TV

then still secure in that chair of celibacy, over the reverberating hymns, in a steady rhythm, with a voice fluctuating and waning due to heart congestion, she guesses the rest:

in this year, if I cannot pack up and jump on a trip, or fly on my own from the ground to a land faraway in July or August,

I will disappear without reason like a scent being love-crazed, then I will only be a set of empty clothes, really turning into an outline incapable of holding someone inside,

and I will leave a message for the person who is sitting here guessing my fate that,

along with the bad stars converging in my temple of the self which are forcing me to become a constant lover, you should put me away into any place possible. if disappearance really happens and I suddenly turn into air, you should go back to this place, open the door to absorb all of me into your lungs,

because here: remote, cafe, flowers almost dead, my dwindling away, alcohol, books, music, paper, pens, unfinished paintings with deadly silent colors: with the beautiful life, the scent of this place is unforgettable.

 -studio g. Saturday, April 4, 2009-
6:30PM .

translated by Lê Đình Nhất Lang


[words] - original version

a window,
between the rails,
unsearched, unseen: the one being silent under the bookshelves


stinky   dirty
permission, guarantee, authorization
wild, strange, stubborn, a mad man . . .
lurching, meandering, frail, irritated
bed-divan (fox holes)

lie down, lie straight down, express, conceal, hide, escape

cannot see (refrained, hooked, pinned)
a threat

clouds from the mountain top, in the storm, I still try to explain
they-command, control
(the rain pours down, erodes and blows away entire tents, underneath, human bodies buried deep in the ground)

pulling, dragging, drifting, limping
a harrow, a sled, a four-horse carriage, hoofs scraping

cannot see. still cannot see a thing. I don’t do it.
(nearest: the separation of a row of trees from its book, to make a stranger want to wear men’s shirts...)
it sticks, not dried yet, worn out, ragged, shabby

top soil, peat, paved with lumps of earth, bobbing
between rails
O, humankind


still cannot see (nearest words: darken, seem sad
                         gloomy darkness, appear hazy . . . )
many folding hems
cannot see (get real close, beyond the tunnel, surface, closer: (poetry)-cruel, whither)
cannot see (the gray color of the mountain range, shackled for life)

cannot see (mind too agitated, obstructed, hiccupping)

cannot see (guts, narrow underground passage, just thinking about this place sinks me into contemplations, a delta, the old days
                    feline entrails: feel the way, destroy from inside, dig, break)

stinking, inducing nausea and the measles, itch, and
they-speak softly, suggest vaguely . . .
they-sing lullabies, calming the waves, lying down, tranquil
they-smaller, fewer, whisper, tinier, less, not enough in number, eliminate

they, have removed
                               angry words, dew drops, water, shadow, this hand, exile, civility,
crystals, salted water, street names, rain on the roof, a house full of yellow powder, memory

there, the process of shrinking, bone displacing, neck breaking
           cure, restore it, compensate, remake
           objects lost, displaced, robbed, paid with a price
           organic fertilizer, ugly objects, mixed up, no dumping holes, not a local person, dirty, disrupting

        war, fight back, day after day

        (they try to push tiny flowers into an old jar and let water rot them, they hide behind the wardrobe and fall asleep for months and years, they warm themselves up by letting spiders crawl around them, they drop their hairs into a basin and let their scents fade, they cannot remember what have just shaken and nibbled)

 [Sunday, January 11, 2009, 10pm].

translated by Lê Đình Nhất Lang


[the words] - unsearchable

over the telephone she said,
I believe in determinism,
and I am the 7th symbol of the zodiac- Libra constellation makes me so seductive in love
and at night, facing the wide open window, when the yellow light projects  the black pine on the other side of the house shadow of strange sceneries - softly she continued, in her thought:

in the state of leakage, astir- I am the hybrid of two genders,
with self-determination and not in the style of an educator, I will attack and heighten the disorder, indisposition- so that she might get hurt, enraged and with oblivion, she imagines herself living in the ruined and painful era arisen from memory- but in this bipolar state - she comes closest to me

and with the letters, the astrology, the admonishment, she says I’m obliged to toss a coin to make a decision,
whether I must definitely argue with mankind, with the maple wood stick, I have whipped my arms incessantly these afternoons they might be the powder of the illusory, for me to continue to tolerate their saying that I am self-isolated, abnormal, and have built a wall to fence off myself, I am rooted to one spot but immeasurably wicked
or I see (poetry)-enemy, become poisonous (for someone)
and through the Libra constellation (with a monotonous voice she goes on)
my being madly in love does not result from adrenal stimulation,
or I am made of antiseptic tablets or disinfectant solution with the same concentration,
I can neither copy others holding onto burdens nor being oppressed to abdominal pain, the more unlikely that I have recently become obsessed
like the boats fleeting in the ocean with a group of tattered people forced to leave their old land in the years since 1975
she (stops for a while to think, seeming motionless for a while then continues, coherently, in an assertive voice):
I, am the word unsearched, unsearchable
I, am the kind not yet located on the map, nor discovered in the encyclopedia or reference book written specifically for obsessive compulsive disorder
but briefly and casually said: I am like a simple circle drawn by kids on their sketchbooks, then I stand up and walk away like a blurred pencil contour,
and then perhaps, as a determinist, I will not show up in the records and definitions in anyone’s notebook,
but I will be retained by memory,
(suddenly from the other end of the phone line her voice drops to a whisper)
“… like mine, you will be kept in these last days of winter,
as the season coming to closure, you will only appear in my body ache,
every morning having breakfast with stomachache I will have thought that you are sitting in there,
and my son, sitting across at the time, will have said, let’s eat mom, don’t be sad”

Thursday, March 19, 2009.

translated by Đặng Thơ Thơ