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Snakes and Ghosts

by Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis


Dổi nhà lên ở Biên Hoà. Nhà rộng quá, có lẻ có ma.

Thầy đọc chuyện về con rồng. Có khi sợ hoảng hồn.

Move to a house in Bien Hoa. The house is so big maybe there are ghosts.

Dad reads stories about snakes. Sometimes the stories are so scary the soul is lost.


The translation is rough.
The snakes of bedtime stories
are not snakes
but mythical creatures,
part-ghost, part-snake.

Losing the soul
is a metaphor
for fear.

There is an old well in the courtyard
and French colonials
once rolled the bodies of Vietnamese rebels
down its gray-stone
shaft. Now
the ghosts awaken when
the crank is turned
and the bucket filled.

She keeps a wary eye on the woods
for ghost-snakes,
watches the well from a distance
for human-ghosts.

“You must close your eyes
to see them,” her father tells her.

“Ba,” she says,
“I won’t fall
for that trick

again.”

 

Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis is a Vietnamese-American writer from the Washington, D.C., area.  His fiction has appeared in Fiction International and was nominated for a 2005 Pushcart Prize. (6/2005)


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