Paper Bells

Hai-Dang Phan translating Phan Nhiên Hạo from the Vietnamese

click here for the Vietnamese text

click here for the Translator’s Note

The paper bells hanging from the ceiling
make no sound.
Summer has begun:
I stand naked in the afternoon
in the middle of the yard watching my shadow
spray like ink from my feet,
a part of night.
A one-story house holding 60,000 gallons of gasoline.
My head is a flame
throwing open the door
to each blaze.
My spirit can’t take flight:
the paper bells make no sound.

Hai-Dang Phan is an MFA student in poetry at the University of Florida. His translations of other poems by Phan Nhiên Hạo appear or are forthcoming in The Brooklyn Rail, Cerise Press, and Drunken Boat.

Phan Nhiên Hạo was born in Kontum, Vietnam in 1967 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1991. He is the author of two collections of poems in Vietnamese, Thiên Đường Chuông Giấy (Paradise of Paper Bells, 1998) and Chế Tạo Thơ Ca 99-04 (Manufacturing Poetry 99-04, 2004). A full-length, bilingual collection of his poetry, entitled Night, Fish, and Charlie Parker, was translated into English by Linh Dinh (Tupelo, 2006). Translations of his poetry have also been featured in the anthology Of Vietnam Identities in Dialogue (Palgrave, 2001) and Three Vietnamese Poets (Tinfish, 2001). He lives in northern Illinois, and edits the online journal litviet.