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Love Tokens

By
August 2, 2007

I’ll give you a roll of barbwire
A vine for this modern epoch
Climbing all over our souls
That’s our love, take it, don’t ask

I’ll give you a car bomb
A car bomb exploding on a crowded street
On a crowded street exploding flesh and bones
That’s our festival, don’t you understand

I’ll give you a savage war
In the land of so many mothers
Where our people eat bullets and bombs instead of rice
Where there aren’t enough banana leaves to string together
To replace mourning cloths for the heads of children

I’ll give you twenty endless years
Twenty years seven thousand nights of artillery
Seven thousand nights of artillery lulling you to sleep
Are you sleeping yet or are you still awake

On a hammock swinging between two smashed poles
White hair and whiskers covering up fifteen years
A river stinking of blood drowning the full moon
Where no sun could ever hope to rise

I’m still here, sweetie, so many love tokens
Metal handcuffs to wear, sacks of sand for pillows
Punji sticks to scratch your back, fire hoses to wash your face
How do we know which gift to send each other
And for how long until we get sated

Lastly, I’ll give you a tear gas grenade
A tear gland for this modern epoch
A type of tear neither sad nor happy
Drenching my face as I wait.

Saigon, 1964

G

Tran Da Tu was born in 1940 in Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. He published two volumes of poems in Vietnam, The Time of Writing Love Poetry (Thua lam tho yeu em, 1960) and Declaration of Love in the Night (To tinh trong dem, 1965), before receiving political asylum and moving to the United States.

Linh Dinh is the author of two collections of stories and four books of poems, most recently Jam Alerts (Chax, 2007). He is also the editor of the anthologies Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (Seven Stories Press, 1996) and Three Vietnamese Poets (Tinfish, 2001), and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao (Tupelo, 2006).

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