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Friday, October 20, 2017

Nguyen Quoc Chanh reading "Đốn cây trồng người"

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Chopping Down Trees to Plant Humans

Punished, a student must fill two sheets: I won’t stir.
Punished, a student must slap himself: 56 times.
Punished, a student is forbidden to fart: for a month.
Punished, a student is banned from bleeding: during her period.
Punished, a student must drink salt water: for being rude during morality class.
Punished, a student must swallow his report card: grades below average.
Punished, a student must sit in the toilet and sing the national anthem: for
buckling his knees during the national anthem.
Punished, a student must yank a thousand itchy hairs from the Principal’s head:
for scratching his head, yawning and not being able to distinguish between
dinosaurs and reptiles.
Punished, a student must smear soot on his classmate’s forehead: for not helping
his friend keep quiet.
Punished, a student must suck an eraser during history class: for not
remembering all 800 names of our heroes.
Punished, a student must shut his eyes for a week for not memorizing the poem:
Tonight Uncle Ho Doesn’t Sleep.

12 years later there’s a student who goes limp down there.
12 years later there’s a student with his left cheek puffier than his right.
12 years later there’s a student addicted to foul smells.
12 years later there’s a student with an ovariectomy.
12 years later there’s a student with a broken larynx.
12 years later there’s a student who tears each piece of paper he sees.
12 years later there’s a student who doesn’t dare to shit in a toilet.
12 years later there’s a student who yanks everyone’s hair.
12 years later there’s a student who often grabs rice from other people’s bowls.
12 years later there’s a student who must piss at the sight of a statue.
12 years later there’s a student who converts to islam to look for Saddam’s bones.

More than 20 years ago I was a student who could never stand straight.
Now I own a utility pole 25 meter-high though I can’t steer my bladder.



[translated by Linh Dinh, and published in his anthology of new Vietnamese poetry, The Deluge]




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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), six of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007), Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009) and A Mere Rica (2017), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.