welcome to the haikutimes

Issue #95, Dalat, Saigon and HCMC, Vietham, July 17-20, 2004.

jonathan starstruck
visiting the monk vien thuc
at least so says paige

a thousand paintings -
perhaps one hundred thousand!
behind his sculptures

at bao dai palace
we find ourselves the sudden
subject of photos

pasteur institute
opposite bao dai palace
tourist ecstasy

monk mixes concrete
gets us busily sculpting
upon our arrival

paintings, sculptures
an uncommon creative
mixing zen with art

happy to learn
we are not sure what is next
he wishes us well

60-year old monk
with exuberant output
makes concrete sculptures

popsicle sword duel
young asian kid trysts
with dad in shop front

electric buddha
radiating otherness
just like me and paige

like we have light bulbs
spotlighting our every step
paige and i stick out

jon - traveling with
an arsenal of gadgets
first world in third world

it must be packit
i think as squeaky bike horn
sounds by outside door

old man stops us
just to laugh and mention
he is a catholic

recycle woman
with baskets of newspapers
pumping small red horn

noisy vietnamese families
fill the foyer of the dai loi hotel
they will be taken away today
to some waterfall or monument
and i think of the monk
vien thuc, who might not
have wanted a busload of
exuberant vietnamese children
scrambling over his sculptures -
certainly no one is here to take a ticket.

into the quiet
shuttered hermitage cautiously
our motorcycle drivers
shrugging their shoulders,
happy enough to leave us alone
after collecting 20,000 dong

there is no-one around
paige is cautious, i am curious
we know from lonely planet
there is an eccentric zen buddhist
monk inside with one hundred
thousand paintings, who speaks
four languages

a person at the door,
mumbling over a bowl of noodles
points to an annex -
we are quickly swept up in the
of a brown-robed fellow
with paint smudges on his frock,
a wolly cap with
pointed, dangling ears,
who speaks in broken
but clear english.
he immediately gets us going,
mixing cement and
preparing our own little
sculptural brick platforms.

i am captivated by
the scores of already
completed cement heads
he has arranged about the yard -
i happily help him move several
finished heads from the
recesses deep in the garden,
bamboo-covered alleyways
wallpapered by canvas after canvas,
most damaged by rain -
so prolific this fellow is
that me must keep paintings
out in the rain, for lack of room.

i show him my
sketchbook of modest vietnamese
landscapes and still lifes -
he urges me to
flip the pages faster - "quick,
quick, everything quick", he says -
taking a blank page
from my book, he completes
an instantaneous sketch
for me, signs it with a flourish,
and puts us to work -

inside the pagoda
which we must walk through
in order to get to the rest of
his studio, i notice
pictures on the wall - a young monk
with his master, in buddhist robes

at 60 he
arranges shows of his work
in america yet never leaves the pagoda
his drawings and paintings
stacked and hung like
clothes at the dry-cleaners
in high-ceilinged rooms with skylights-
more than one tacit reference
to van gogh,
self-portrait after self-portrait
completed in burlesque,
improvisational form -
written admonitions from
many paintings to
live in the moment

the next time an easy rider
comes up - i mention we have
already met happy -
they leave us alone!

raising her hands high
like the children on the screen
young child at airport

protecting their babies
with face mask but no helmet
in streets of saigon

what you order
and what you get
are two different things

mai lai massacre
in truth, how different was this
from hiroshima?

sprawling eatery
a good place to decompress
from stress of saigon

roasting a whole cow
on the streets of Ho Chi Mihn City
bovine barbecue

a little like dog
rat meat a delicacy
washed down with weak beer

with insight from guide
now able to distinguish
the best motorbike

motorbike culture
examined in great detail
by chatty tour guide

war photographers
with their lasting impressions
speak of pain and death

hovels with trash
next to storefront with speakers
the face of Saigon

not unlike the french
americans came with guns
tried to prove something

environmental nightmare
the pain still lingers

brave photographer
with rolls of film in his socks
spent his last days

representing all countries
documenting truth

minh mang wine
vietnamese viagra
a time-tested brew

water buffalo
taking a breather from life
lying in water

witness to faith
caodist temple brings tourists
and saints together

gentle monks waiting
for their moment of prayer
in cool marbled hall

faiths come together
buddhist, taoist, confucist,
christian, animist

mud glistens on road
the same way in vietnam
as it does back home

putting my faith
in all of these deities
plus the bus driver

islamic prophets
absent from caodaist temple
the koran, missing

the cu chi tunnels
template for resistance
against americans

from this perspective
i too would make bamboo spears
and hidden trap doors

small tunnel, wet walls
we join in damp eating room
to try cassava

that my country invaded
and killed these people

caskets in paddies
in nine-dragon delta
ancestors remain

little plastic chairs
crusty white bakery buns
throughout vietnam

bus breaks down
old syringe in vacant lot
near black-water town

headless frog jumping
quivers without direction
for a few seconds

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen