Phan Tien Duat
THE CHESS PLAYER
You were our village master at Vietnamese chess.
Now you play it Western style.
Rooks and knights and pawns look all the same,
Yet you lose at every try.
Somehow the bishop is not a bishop
And the king over there by the queen
calls up rules you should remember
and rules you should forget
on this odd board of strange moves.
So you lose but keep on playing
at Vietnamese and Western chess.
Look! Over in the garden a yellow butterfly
flaps along in unpredictable paths.
—Translated by John Balaban
—from Rattle #21, Summer 2004
Tribute to Vietnamese Poets