Prince Buu Hoi’s Watch

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.

John Balaban

John Balaban

John Balaban is the author of twelve books of poetry and prose, including four volumes which together have won The Academy of American Poets' Lamont prize, a National Poetry Series Selection, and two nominations for the National Book Award. His Locusts at the Edge of Summer: New and Selected Poems won the 1998 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. In 2003, he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2005, he was a judge for the National Book Awards. His next book of poetry, Empires, is due out from Copper Canyon Press in 2019.

In addition to writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, he is a translator of Vietnamese poetry, and a past president of the American Literary Translators Association. 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 translations of poetry and his leadership in the restoration of the ancient text collection at the National Library. In 2016, he received the George Garrett Award from the Associated Writing Programs.
John Balaban

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Author: John Balaban

John Balaban is the author of twelve books of poetry and prose, including four volumes which together have won The Academy of American Poets' Lamont prize, a National Poetry Series Selection, and two nominations for the National Book Award. His Locusts at the Edge of Summer: New and Selected Poems won the 1998 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. In 2003, he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2005, he was a judge for the National Book Awards. His next book of poetry, Empires, is due out from Copper Canyon Press in 2019. In addition to writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, he is a translator of Vietnamese poetry, and a past president of the American Literary Translators Association. 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 translations of poetry and his leadership in the restoration of the ancient text collection at the National Library. In 2016, he received the George Garrett Award from the Associated Writing Programs.