He won’t ride a shod animal.
He prefers to trouble his head
to stand by the road unkempt
under a tree
how he will outlive me like a quotation.
Today we’ll go to other cities
on the border of the state, fields and houses.
At the entrance of every city
there’s an address written by the victors.
A woman in an apron
will come out with a sword
and look at us. Glaciers
and bells will ring.
And still, the exhaustion.
“There,” she will point as evening nears, “It’s not far.”
“Nomad Poem” from THE TRUFFLE EYE: by Vaan Nguyen.
Published by Zephyr Press 2021.
Translation Copyright © 2021 by Adriana X. Jacobs.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Vaan Nguyen is the author of the poetry collections The Truffle Eye (Maayan Press, 2013) and Vain Ratio (Barchash, 2018). In addition to poetry, she has worked as an actress, journalist, and social activist. Translations of her poems have appeared in English and French, including in the collection Inheriting the War: Poetry and Prose by Descendants of Vietnam Veterans and Refugees (W. W. Norton, 2017). She currently lives in Jaffa, Israel, and is writing her first novel.
Adriana X. Jacobs is the author of Strange Cocktail: Translation and the Making of Modern Hebrew Poetry (University of Michigan Press, 2018). Her translations have appeared in various print and online journals, including Gulf Coast, Seedings, World Literature Today, Poetry International, The Ilanot Review, and in the collection Women’s Hebrew Poetry on American Shores: Poems by Anne Kleiman and Annabelle Farmelant (Wayne State UP, 2016). She is associate professor of modern Hebrew literature at the University of Oxford.
"Vaan Nguyen’s electric poems of lust, longing, and detachment are both quintessentially Tel Aviv and entirely her own. Elegantly introduced and translated by Adriana X. Jacobs, this collection offers the English-language reader an essential window into the true and often surprisingly multilingual and multiethnic diversity of contemporary Israeli poetry—as it brings Nguyen’s linguistic journey from her family’s native Vietnamese to her native Hebrew all the way to the shores of English."
"In this explosively frank collection, Vaan Nguyen tunes her microscope to the textures and terrains of intimate spaces: between lovers and ex-lovers, travelers in lands both foreign and familiar, the individual self alone with a mind that can’t help but see the world through interstices. Here is a visionary moving along the edge of reality and its surreal offerings: where the flora and fauna of natural world intersects with the tensions of women and men. Only through a truffle eye, wounded or intact, can the world be revealed as 'A bubble / of dying butterflies,' 'A dick list / Wiped clean,' with 'A bat cutting across the sky / Underneath, a bourgeois enemy on a mattress.' Nguyen's speaker moves through these visions with bold vulnerability, as if the speaker is daring the world to make its next move. 'Look at me, I'm a routine,' Nguyen writes, and she’s right, though the truth is tongue-in-cheek: Nguyen’s lyrical routine is nothing short of exquisite, full of verve, full of nails."
—Diana Khoi Nguyen