The Cake That Drifts In Water by Ho Xuan Huong

Headaches, again. I have tried cleaning my office, dusting mountains of books, framing pictures. I thought at the end of the day I wouldn’t mind the exhaustion if it can make me forget about these damn headaches. Didn’t work. Now I am tired and dirty. I just want to rest and sleep and drift and not mind the world at all.

The Cake That Drifts In Water
Ho Xuan Huong
Translated by Huynh Sanh Thong

My body is both white and round
In water I now swim, now sink.
The hand that kneads me may be rough—
I still shall keep my true-red heart.

Another translation of this Vietnamese poem (“Banh Troi Nuoc“):

The Floating Cake
Ho Xuan Huong
Translated by John Balaban

My body is white; my fate, softly rounded,
Rising and sinking like mountains in streams.
Whatever way hands may shape me,
At center my heart is red and true.

1 Comment

  1. I need to move mountains of books, but I am not disciplined enough to do so. They render my bed useless for now.

    I think I like the second translation, overall, but I love the first translation’s version of the line about the hands.

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