Motets from Florida

after Montale

Hai-Dang Phan

The sun here is democratic. It burns everyone.
My body tells my mind August was overheating, asking for
          a sudden downpour.
September, a walk under what look at first like weeping willows.
Moss garlands the great oaks, gargantuan limbs across
          darkened streets.


A sparrow sails down from the sassafras
to collect blades of grass for hurricane-ready housing.
          On this side
of the sun-baked municipal building, the weathered wall lies exposed:
A sawed-off drain pipe sticks out of meat-colored brick
          like a raw bone.


Downtown, the tables of the pool hall glow in the losing afternoon.
Your distant voice wells up from the cellular phone,
but not unforgiving. Our weekly unscheduled fight is interrupted
by a coughing air-conditioner, the high-pitched screeching of a passing car.
          This time I mean it.


What do the clouds have to say that they can never remember?
A forgotten memory of their Atlantic crossing?
          The earth
is the same earth, but different. On the shoulder of evening,
lifted by palm trees, the moon still rises—half-full
          or half-empty?

Click here for a Vietnamese version of "Motets from Florida", translated by Phan Nhiên Hạo.