đôi mắt tôi sẽ thôi bồn chồn, sẽ thôi bồn chồn, sẽ thôi bồn chồn
Strange birds have flown
Author: Lê Minh Phong
Published on: 9/10/2015 5:09:22 PM

Strange birds begin to appear overhead, a species we’ve never seen. They’re flying North. The moon tonight is also strange, not the gold of days before, we see clearly everything in our midst.
Maybe an omen, could be a coming joy, or something out of the ordinary. Our lives have so many astonishing things. Facing a joy we are usually silent, neither cracking a smile nor screaming and shouting as others. Facing the unordinary we’ll crack a smile, some among us might even love it.
A stranger appears behind our backs. We know it is the old man from the change in the moonlight. He advances in our direction. We neither greet him nor crack a smile, for simply he is a stranger. We’re always on guard when facing strangers.
Under moonlight like this we could meet a swindler. He comes soliciting a pinch of tobacco then sings for us, praising the war as miserable suffering. We ask why should a miserable suffering be praised. He says that is the rebellion. A perfect mask. He’s never come back like he promised.
He looks small but with bright eyes. He introduces himself as having come from a completely exotic place. We want to know how it is exotic. He says that the exotic is not yet familiar. Someone among us does not agree with this explanation, saying sometimes the most familiar things are also the most exotic. The moonlight again changes color, we know it is right.
He asks if we have tobacco. We look up at the sky and watch the moon. “If you’ve got tobacco then offer me a cigarette,” his voice is still a plea. We are kind people, kind people usually do the things that other people don’t do. We are prompted to give the old man a pinch of tobacco. He tells us that today we have done a good thing, then he lights a match to smoke.
He sings for us although we are not asking. He praises peace. His voice trembles but is deep, warm. He says “I come from peace”. Our lives could also be called peaceful and so we understand it clearly. “How is peace?” he asks. “Peace is a life in which birds freely sing,” we reply. “What about all the birds that don’t know how to sing?” he asks again. We suppose that it’s still very possible. Because just yesterday an owl was flying above our heads with its voice raised as if in song. 
“Like it was happy?” he suspects. “Right, like it was happy,” we confirm. But he persists, saying that is not yet happiness. He asks us what is miserable suffering like. We tell him that miserable suffering is not happiness, our teacher once said so. He questions if we have lived in miserable suffering yet. We look up to the sky and watch the moon.
 “Miserable suffering is happiness.” He affirms. We pretend to not pay attention to him but actually we can understand a bit of what he says. In the end we turn skeptical of our lives. Of happiness and miserable suffering.
 “The moon will dissolve and flow down, when the moon dissolves that is miserable suffering, when the moon flows down that is happiness.” Finished speaking he leaves. We want to know when he’ll come back. He promises he’ll come back. He’ll sing for us about the war, about peace, about each and every thing.
Before leaving he solicits one more cigarette, but we’re out of tobacco He smiles and tells us “the moon is changing color.”
We sense this truth, that the moon is changing color and the strange birds have flown away, we fly away and are never to return.

-translated by Kaitlin Rees

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