Vietnam

 

espriu
Salvador Espriu (1913-1985)

Vietnam

I’m not young and I’ve always seen
injustice and fear all around me
It’s always been this way,
I gratefully learned  
from the heavy books of the good old days.
I live in a country that’s not free,
very tired, cruel, corrupt, very cowardly,
I have to live in an unworthy country
but the rest of the world is no better.
 
And I can raise only a few fragile words
against the contempt of the lords of power,
the princes’ lips are just smiling,
barely a smile that comes from oblivion
and then dictate forever
icy laws of fear and force,
a firm support  
most generous crutches
upon which the lame  
may walk towards death.
 
How will I fight with nothing
but useless words,
what good is the cry of the dreamer?
I wake up slowly and in silence I contemplate
the great bonfire lit in the far south,
the shame and dishonour of all peoples
It will spread everywhere  
and in it we shall burn,
now someone has understood
but soon everyone will know
that we’re completely lost.

Salvador Espriu

(translated by John Lyons)


“Vietnam” by the great Catalan poet, Salvador Espriu, was written in 1968, ostensibly as a denunciation of the Vietnam War, but was aimed more particularly at fascism and the corrupt regime of Franco’s Spain which sought to suppress Catalan culture.

Blood thicker than water

specs
Hieroglyphs, John Lyons (oil on canvas)

Blood thicker than water

Blood thicker than
           the waters we crossed
to get to Shoreditch
           or to St Katharine’s Dock
past Traitor’s Gate
           along Kingsland Road
to eat at Vietnam
           duck on a platter
and mango salad
           the stuff of memories
and wondering now
           what it all meant
and why it was
           so soon forgotten
a mystery written
           in our dust

John Lyons