Khế Iêm

TALK poem by KHẾ IÊM, Vietnam


                        For Angela Saunders, Daniel Edward Duffy

                                                               and Lidia Chiarelli

Talk when it is not possible to talk

and don’t talk when talk is necessary,

and this dilemma is prolonged, perhaps

from a century earlier, “hey, those of


you who have low necks and little mouths stick your

head out a little further”, these things i

am uncertain, because i cannot know

when that century earlier actually


began because as i am talking right

now i cannot know when i actually

began talking, and is it me who is

talking or is it someone else who is


talking and i am listening; and maybe

i had been enticed into this dilemma

because the devils and demons of time

have captured me like they have everyone


else by trick and by treachery; although

i have tried many different ways to

change one me for another me, although

i am not the main character of myself


and neither i could step out from my own

body nor my own body step out from

me, and as such there is some oppression

upon the face of God; for what to seek


when my Mexican neighbors are near earshot,

they play their music unbearably loud,

and so i have to make efforts to go

outside to see what kind of people these


people are, how do they behave, but when

i open the door, i am surprised to

find that there is no one in the empty

room, screeching with irritating noises,


closing in from all sides while i can no

longer crawl and pounce upon a pillar

of the house to interrogate why,

perhaps if i could grab hold of something


or other what would befall me except

deadlock because of a language barrier,

therefore i dig into these piles of old

books; finally latching onto a book


with yellowed pages chock full of ancient thoughts

of thievery lying in wait; and now

it occurred to me, that i am not much

good, only a stagy manner, regurgitating


things that had been handed down, and things

belonging to others from ages past, that

i rarely understood in any sense,

never leading to any finality;


but back to the loud noises which i am

still burdened by, and thus subjected to

hearing on a daily basis, from

morning to evening and i want to


go crazy such that sometimes i feel like

i want to cut off my ears, but if i

do that then my face will certainly appear

strange; on the contrary if i remove


the ears then what shall i do with the eyes,

nose and limbs that remain, “hey, rugged ragged

guys, why hang yourselves in the middle of

the day like this without shame” imagine


right now, that i am like a log rolling

at the edge of the forest, and having

the misfortune of running into a

woodcutter who takes me home, chops me into


pieces and tosses me into the fire pit,

to cook and to burn, then my life would turn

into ashes; but being the chameleon that

i am i would have to step out of myself


otherwise all would be … lost. Bye.