Thursday April 21. Canberra


A raven, half a grove of poplars after wake
one receives news that one is gone
morse calls, toll calls and black
I stand on the ground of the displaced, scything the tufts
dawn bells – mathematical series of grey, and shades
after deaths.
Old People’s House washed over with chinawhite fineness
art deco lines and the never-never-mind
a fire, left overnight, burnt to ground, wisps
cataract sky hanging low with a few decoys
one that was my father’s ghost
on the mindsets of the villagers, his kin.
Of calligraphy, a word wrested
itself out of the mace of a young monk
wrote itself a wing and pressed hard a final dot
on the floor of the freshly dug grave, soft as flesh –
goodness returns to goodness –  lush waves of wild grass rolling.
Under faded clouds, grains of my childhood
now I enter a Greek Orthodox house of worship in Kingston
swim in the rising tongues
of islands and archipelagos and the upturned seas
bathed in a hologram, sun washing over years and feet
held in caring hands, then
cut, roped, shifted, hanged up, nailed, in, out, under, over
dirt – warm, ever so, breathing

Hoang Tien Nguyen

Author: Hoang Tien Nguyen

Nguyen Tien Hoang arrived in Australia from Vietnam in 1974 under a Colombo Plan Scholarship. He graduated from Monash University and has worked in journalism, radio, book editing, translation and information technology. His poems have appeared in The Age, HEAT, Meanjin, Black Inc anthologies of Best Australian Poems. Under the pen name Thường Quán, his poems and essays in Vietnamese have appeared in selected literary magazines across the Vietnamese diaspora over the past four decades. Nguyen Tien Hoang received the Australian Council for the Arts grant for developing writers in 1997. His more recent poems can be read in this year’s Contemporary Asian Australian Poets (Puncher & Wattmann). A book in the Asia Pacific series which Nguyen edited and wrote introduction featuring three contemporary Vietnamese poets has just been published by Vagabond Press.