Featured Poem

Prison Diary

1. Imprisonment

My body is in jail, but my spirit is free
and now may it leap to the sky.
I never thought much about poetry,
but in jail, what else can you do?
In jail, all time is long.
A song might brighten it up.

As I entered Jingxi District Prison,
the old hands came to greet me
and white clouds chased black clouds
across a wide Guanxi sky.
The clouds are all free:
the people are in jail.

I had crossed treacherous mountains
and scrambled down steep cliffs:
but on the open road I was captured.

I met a tiger up in the hills. He looked at me:
I looked at him. We went our separate ways.
But on the open road, where I thought I was safe,
it was human beings who captured me.

I came to China to speak for Vietnam
but I was arrested on the open road.
By way of a welcome, they threw me in jail.

I am an honest man, with nothing to regret
but now the Chinese call me a traitor.
That’s a universal law: everything changes.

Imprisoned: 29 August 1942
Released without charge: 10 September 1943

For the rest of the Prison Diary please subscribe to MPT or purchase 'Poetry and the State'

» Comment on this translation 0 comment(s)

About the translation:
» Read translator's notes
Poet:
Ho Chi Minh
Translator:
Timothy Allen
Original language:
Vietnamese
Issue:
Series 3 No.15 - Poetry and the State

About the author

Ho Chi Minh

Original poet

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969) was President of Vietnam from 1945-1969.

In August, 1942, a middle-aged Vietnamese gentleman ordere...

» Read more
Timothy Allen

Translator

Timothy Allen

Timothy Allen was born in Liverpool in 1960, and as a former aid worker has lived in many parts of the developing world. He ha...

» Read more

Comment

No Comments

ADD YOUR COMMENT


Browse poems

By original language »

By issue of MPT »

Go Digital

Subscribe to the digital edition of MPT for access to all back issues and to the Exactly app.» View free trial issue

Back to top
Supported by Arts Council England

Copyright © Modern Poetry in Translation and contributors
Website design ashbydesign
Developed by Code Frontiers
Powered by Storemill