The ones who came before urged the ones who would come after to be cautious
with you, keeping you at a distance.
Petofi said: “Hope is a flighty girl of the night.”
Lu Xun wrote: “Thoughts about hope bring sudden fear.”
From the age of fifteen, a credulous boy, not yet skeptical, quick to forget, began
to fall madly in love with you, seeing you as his traveling companion, although
he’d seen no portrait of you, a beauty with many faces.
The sad chill of a wet afternoon in the rainy season formed, in the soul of a man
about to turn into ashes, a question that has no answer:
“Is the seductive, false-hearted traveling companion named Hope still with me,
or has she abandoned me and taken up with someone else?”
The coffee server—a girl I’ve encountered thirty days each month for several
years without getting acquainted—gave this old man an answer based on the
first question she asked, just to be friendly:
“On this sad, rainy afternoon, why are you happy? Do you nurture some hope?”
Born in 1924 in Ben Tre province, Vietnam, Trang The Hy participated in the war against the French and the Vietnam-American war. Well-known as “the sagacious writer of South Vietnam” and “the Dean of South Vietnam Literature,” he has published six collections of short stories and one book of poems.
Martha Collins is the author of Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014), White Papers (Pittsburgh, 2012) and Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006), as well as four earlier collections of poems and three volumes of co-translated Vietnamese poetry, most recently Black Stars: Poems by Ngo Tu Lap (Milkweed, 2013, with the author). She is editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and an editor of the Oberlin College Press.
Nguyen Ba Chung is a writer, poet and translator. He is the co-translator of Thoi Xa Vang (A Time Far Past); Mountain River: Vietnamese Poetry from The Wars 1948-1993; Distant Road ‑ Selected Poems of Nguyen Duy; Six Vietnamese Poets; Zen Poems from Early Vietnam, and others. He’s currently a Research Associate at the William Joiner Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston.