An old Omega with a cracked crystal and a dusty face
which the Prince’s friend gave me not long after his heart attack.
We were having tea at her place in Paris when she said
“It’s awful having it here” taking it off the mantle
by a photo of her in sundress and shady hat in Saigon
with the Prince and Diem and Henry Cabot Lodge
the men looking cordial in their tropical white suits,
Lodge smiling with tall, paternal grace at the pudgy little man
looking up in earnest, who we liked to call “the Churchill of Asia.”
Diem would die the next day. Lodge already knew.
And Patricia and the Prince–almost the fixer of a separate peace–
would flee bearing sympathies from the French Ambassador.
One listens to the watch as sunlight shifts, and shadows
shake through threshing palms, through banyan and sprays of Bougainvillea.
The time that it keeps best is past.
In addition to writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, he is a translator of Vietnamese poetry. In 1999, with two Vietnamese friends, he founded the Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation(http://nomfoundation.org). In 2008, he was awarded a medal from the Ministry of Culture of Vietnam for his leadership in the preservation of the ancient text collection at the National Library.
Also by John Balaban (see all)
- War Poetry, Political Poetry, and The Invisible Powers - February 19, 2022
- Prince Buu Hoi’s Watch - September 22, 2019