Burying one’s shadow by Nguyễn Văn Thiện

A short story in Vietnamese by Nguyễn Văn Thiện
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm (Blog link)
Art: Đinh Trường Chinh
Published first on litviet.net

Sáng sớm by Đinh Trường Chinh

Burying one’s shadow

On Mount Chư Mang, the cicadas were disrupting the old man’s midday nap. Since the end of autumn, the year before the cicadas have been hidden away at the bottom of Kroa spring, finally woke up singing their moanful songs, calling for the wind and rain.  Though the ancient red jacarandas’ foliage was fading in its desire, fresh still were last year’s endearing seed pods, not dampened, not forgotten. Now and then came rushing upon a swarm of butterfly wings whiffing of moisture from the distance, their saunter awakening a new season of sowing. The older man of the mountain has a good nose, and he could detect the moisture upon butterfly wings three to four days’ travel from wherever he may be. And he never stops mumbling, he said to himself, talking to himself was a habit he has become accustomed to. “This year, I will plant a new variety of trees, not the blistering insipid lifeless deceiving kind I planted in the last rain period. Perhaps, the seed pods will be long enough to go the distance.

So now we’re digging up the dirt, turning it over ready for the rain. As for the mead, there will always be this oblivious maddening relentless pounding of the hoe all night long. Tired, we would rest by the head of the water bay, even though it has completely dried up, but we’re hoping for rain in the next period, right? What’s more precious in life than hope, when there’s no hope left, what is the point of living?

A flutter of butterflies calling on us to join them, but we must be vigilant.

The mesmerising smiles of the familiar spirits cast their spell, and we shook our heads in declination. 

We must stay and sow the seeds for the next season”.

The old man announced.

The old man continued with his work, digging up all the love lost from his past, before he proceeded to sow the soil, the obsessive soil of his delusions. But the rain is stuck dilly-dallying elsewhere in some far off place, where the sky was endlessly blue like in the eyes of those who were colourblind. He asked a wandering elephant passing by; we heard that love shouldn’t be so calculating, a measuring of wins and losses, is that right? The elephant’s ears moved up and down as he laughed before he slowly left the old man, cutting through a cloud of blinding red Bazan dust. Huddled within the canopy, as the end of the dry period approached, flocks of exhausted Ktia, pop their heads out cheekily, teased the old man: “Hey, who are you digging the grave for?”.

We’re trying to bury our shadow, how did those nosy Ktia work that out? But his reply was vague: “Yeah, we want to bury something, but sometimes we bury the wrong thing!”

In the middle of all the digging, an abyss appeared beneath his feet. Unable to find his shadow in time for the burial, he wanted to bury himself by noon in Mount Chư Mang.

He said: “Who are we burying? Why does it feel like we’re burying ourselves?”.

“First, we will bury our arms. The arms are tired after so many seasons, they need a rest, they need to stretch, they need to be freed from the doubting clouds of love and loss.

Then we should bury our feet. They’re tired, macerated and bleeding, coated with how many layers of mud, wandering through how many twisted warren worlds. Now, we’re able to lay down. Buried will be both our hands and feet and the rain evaded us still, the swarm of cicadas screaming like rice in a mill, the pơlang blooming a fire ignited from the top of the dried-up streams.

Wait, we might as well bury our heads. Carefully we cleared the space for it, tenderly closed its eyes and quietly said our goodbyes: “Have a good sleep…”. So it came to be, we had farewelled the twisted bundle of roots in our head, let go of the dreams in reds and blues, we’re ready to forget the imaginary far-fetching delusional promises in blood and bloom. Has anyone ever said farewell to their dear head before? Why were there suddenly butterflies everywhere across the horizon, frolicking dancing this very noon like some birth or death rite, the flags and flowers were flying heading for another life!

It’s time we bury the bruised battered heart riddled with scars, throbbing anxiously back so forth across the clutter of our memory. Bury also the red blood cells with not a chance of an adventure as promised once upon a time, bury the ridiculous scars accordingly via the stratagem of bleeding, in time for this afternoon, for tonight. We bury our hearts with the boulders by Kroa spring; then we wait for the return of the rain.

As for this tired half torn broken blistered body, we may as well bury it. The dusty soil covered the horizon at the end of the dry period. A cracked shrivelled up tired body coated in layers of dust from the day mother gave birth to it. Who knows how much longer we could carry this burden on our shoulders. The ready abyss, all we need to do is fill it up, be by the modest grave, waiting for the blanket of sunlight, a blessing of rain”.

The old man continued to work, consoled himself, wiped away the tears that he wanted no one else to see!

On the other side of Mount Chư Mang, a swarm of wild bees excited followed the scent of flowers, the scent of sweet nectar. Staying put, the old man waited for any kind of sprinkling from above, something to feed his hope, quench the thirst of his dreams.

You never know, from this rushed burial, there might be a budding of new love, the budding of leaves as green and pure as in any fairy tale, endearingly bloom in glorious scents withholding from a three to seven days treks away, bursting with faith and love.

You never know, the old man thought, the rain may turn up at the very foot of Mount Chư Mang.

“We’ll sit and wait by the grave on the other side like the first time we had loved” – The old man spoke as though he was singing in his sleep, lifting his chin to look at the sky catching a whiff of moisture in the air. The rain was still very far away, no nearer in its return!

[October 2020]

Anuncio publicitario

3 comentarios sobre “Burying one’s shadow by Nguyễn Văn Thiện

Deja una respuesta

Introduce tus datos o haz clic en un icono para iniciar sesión:

Logo de WordPress.com

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de WordPress.com. Salir /  Cambiar )

Imagen de Twitter

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Twitter. Salir /  Cambiar )

Foto de Facebook

Estás comentando usando tu cuenta de Facebook. Salir /  Cambiar )

Conectando a %s