The fires created


Translate by Nguyễn Hoàng Quyên

life in my village was a harmony of shifting scales, and my teenage years were an ecstatic segment, with my blooming curiosity [about, for instance, why night herons cried in the dew, with such sadness, or why the whistling of humans attracted green snakes…], what was happening around me was always real, and fabricated, my thoughts were filled to the brim with questions and responses that never reached closure, realities like unfinished echoes, i heard, saw and wanted to ask, surprises seduced me, would any seed planted in the ground inevitably germinate into a fruit-bearing tree, the question occurred in my consciousness the moment my parents started to grow cotton plants [rice yielded food to eat, cotton yielded cloth to wear, theories were always simple, incomplete, cruel], night, i wake up thinking about the history book of the village which i am writing and thinking, some stories were unhistoricized, some historicized, and some were hard to categorize as historicized or not… suddenly a young sprout appeared, at dawn someone made an announcement about a serene deer drinking from the stream, the waning moon, pale in the west sky, had poured primitive smiles over unhistoricized eras, someone tried uprooting the sprout to find a seed attached underneath, was there yet a connection between tree and seed, such interrupted segments of history stirred up grand inspirations [science and poetry are thunderous statements from the unconscious], the story of the sprout seemed to fall into oblivion, now humans have found ways to produce vast forests [sprouts of unhistoricized days, forests of historicized days], january, the scent of mango and pomelo flowers passed through the garden, my father took the plow and herded the pair of  cows to the fields, my mother and i accompanied my father, we planted cotton seeds in the furrows my father freshly opened, i didn’t know i was having an unhistoricized state of mind [at dusk, who would sit in a cold cave, after the hunt, remembering or not remembering at all the daily stories, the stories between humans and their prey, between humans and nature], i helped my parents grow cotton, but inside i was unsettled, would we eventually have clothes to wear, would the furrows my father freshly opened turn the lives of the earthworms upside down, while my mother and i were planting cotton seeds in the furrows, the earthworms had to run about looking for a new home, my father had his own way of thinking, the thinking that resembled that of a pedologist, this year the fields are filled with earthworms, it must mean a high yield of cotton, he said, so ultimately there had been some relation, consequential, sustainable, between the fertility of soil and the earthworms, these ontological questions, but little did i know back then, hidden somewhere in my consciousness, kindling in me a great spirit, was a love for the land, i loved the cotton shrubs my parents laboriously worked on day by day, if humans and nature co-existed, then just imagine, night, not a poet with singing words, with poetry, but a caretaker of cotton blooms, my father, behind the cotton field there was a shuttle, a foot-treadle loom, pulling threads, weaving fabrics, these unspoken thoughts, the poetry of the cotton grower lay on the grassy edge, the cotton grower lay on one side, the cotton fields lay on the other, breathing under the night sky, before the roosters crowed in the morning, my father had already returned, there was a bowl of cinnamon tea made by my mother, its froth shone in this corner of life, the humans entered a new day, unconsciously like the cotton shrubs in the fields, june, cotton blooms whitened the entire field, instead of gladness, fear arrived as dark clouds gathered in the sky above, if it rained now the cotton grower would be empty-handed, this year we were lucky to not have unseasonal rain, my father said once all of the cotton blooms in the fields had been carried home, a dry smile glinted off his eyes as if a prehistoric echo still lingered, while i was thinking about the days my mother finished the sticks of khún fabric [the cloth hand- woven from cotton threads], in my front yard there was a gathering of a community unmentioned in any history books, boys and girls my age in the village brought shuttles to my family’s front yard to weave, this flock of young people, including me, wanted to convene under the light lit by the resin of the dầu rái tree [extracted from the forest south of the village], it was only enough to illuminate the shuttles and some faces, the cave-like activity of this contemporary human flock was more poetic than the socio-economy, the point was simply to have fun weaving, along the bamboo fences around my house the fireflies also caught the delight, sharing their endless flickering fire, the pastoral landscape and the fireflies’ fire had an evolutionary linkage, illuminating the desolate and the derelict, and still, a thousands-year-old song kept floating, a pastoral flirtation, without you i am like a bird lost in the wrong forest, weaving, and singing, later the girl who sang that line died in an air-attack by the French aggressors, but at that moment she was sitting beside me, turning the shuttle, as she gently stretched her foot, deftly hitting my foot as she stood up, saying she wanted to get some water, i also stood up, quietly followed her steps, our friends must have pretended to not hear us, they continued to sing, she and i made a beeline for the banana grove in the backyard, it was late enough in the night for me to seize her hand, but i hurriedly pulled mine back when a late breeze abruptly shook the overhanging banana leaves, perhaps the seriousness of the banana grove made it hard for us to have a conversation, so when will your family begin to grow cotton again young sisteroh i’m not so sure, eventually we were able to strike up a conversation, but it strictly revolved around cotton-growing, i knew then she and i didn’t yet have enough vocabularies for romance, it was merely a cotton romance.

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