Thursday, 20 December 2007

Ho Chi Minh in Paris

July 1946, Paris

the thin small man
the bouquet of roses
the palace on the right bank
and neatly trimmed
for the occassion
the goatee beard
but not
the marks of long suffering
and deprivation
the faint smile
is fixed
many years
in many prisons
where time is always long
he says quietly
to the colonialists

go back 4 years
to the restless uplands
on the Chinese border
and that thin small man
on his way to Chunking
and taken by the Chiang Kaishek police
Nguyen Ai Quoc the patriot is dead
they say
but this man will do
same age
same size
near enough
approximate enough
an obvious simpleton
he'll do
a fair replacement
and so they take him away
a smiling dog on a lead
wandering over 13 districts
long days of long walks
from makeshift prison to makeshift prison
they drag their strange smiling dog through
the cangues
but the dog keeps its strange smile
and listens intently
to songs of the birds
and sniffs intently
the scents of the flowers
it sees the moon rise and fall
it sees the morning and evening twilight
it believes in itself
and knows
and in its kennels of misery
in all the dirt and the squalor
in all the corruption in disease ridden holes
amid all the cockroaches and mosquitoes
and the lice and the itch-mites
and the syphilitics
and the opium addicts
and the gamblers
it sits quietly smiling in its corner
and in a worn out notebook
in a foreign land
a poet writes his poetry
in the language of his jailers

Gwilym Williams

there is no secret door between his public and private life
for him the sight of suffering is a call both to action and to poetical expression
(Phan Nhuan)


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