My body is in jail, but my spirit is free
and now may it leap to the sky.
I never thought much about poetry,
but in jail, what else can you do?
In jail, all time is long.
A song might brighten it up.
As I entered Jingxi District Prison,
the old hands came to greet me
and white clouds chased black clouds
across a wide Guanxi sky.
The clouds are all free:
the people are in jail.
I had crossed treacherous mountains
and scrambled down steep cliffs:
but on the open road I was captured.
I met a tiger up in the hills. He looked at me:
I looked at him. We went our separate ways.
But on the open road, where I thought I was safe,
it was human beings who captured me.
I came to China to speak for Vietnam
but I was arrested on the open road.
By way of a welcome, they threw me in jail.
I am an honest man, with nothing to regret
but now the Chinese call me a traitor.
That’s a universal law: everything changes.
Imprisoned: 29 August 1942
Released without charge: 10 September 1943
For the rest of the Prison Diary please subscribe to MPT or purchase ‘Poetry and the State’