When I leave

A poem in Vietnamese by Nguyễn Đình Toàn
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm
Art: Đinh Trường Chinh

When I leave I’ll leave for the dark fog

Into the flesh the fog seeps the poison of death

Our homeland descent in goodbyes divided

Where to the tearful message

When I leave I hope to forget the love far gone

Hope they’ll find their destination

Us in parting, we’re parting heaven ripping apart the sea

Left is how many markings of yearning

The moon shall be cold alone from now on

Life around the waterfall through the rapids 

The spirit like a mirror shattered into pieces

A vessel from now on far from docking

When I leave as blood bled outside of the heart

In all corners of the world the prayers

May our homeland wakeup from its torpor

So joy be in death far from home

[March 2021]

Mai tôi đi

Mai tôi đi tôi đi vào sương đen

Sương rất độc tẩm vào người nỗi chết

Quê hương ta sông chia dòng vĩnh biệt

Chảy về đâu những nước mắt đưa tin

Mai tôi đi mong cho tình xa quên

Mong cho người về được nơi sẽ đến

Ta chia tay, ta chia trời xé biển

Còn được bao dấu vết nhớ nhau tìm

 –

Từ nay trăng sẽ lạnh riêng mình

Đời nghe quanh thác đổ qua ghềnh

Hồn như gương vỡ dập tan tành

Thuyền ơi từ nay xa bến

Mai tôi đi như máu chảy ngoài tim

Xin khấn nguyện cả mười phương tám hướng

Cho quê hương u mê ngày thức tỉnh

Để dù xa có chết cũng vui mừng


Nguyễn Đình Toàn first penned under Tô Hà Vân, born September 6th, 1936 at Gia Lâm, by the Red river, outside of Hanoi. Left for South Vietnam in 1954, there he became actively involved in the arts, literature, poetry, plays, and music, in association with literary magazines like Văn, Văn học. He collaborated with Trần Phong Giao for many years in the selection of literature for Văn Magazine. He took up the position as the editor of Saigon Radio after that and became known for the Music program in the early seventies. He was captured twice after 1975 and was imprisoned in a re-education camp for nearly six years. He and his wife, Madame Thu Hồng, settled in the United States of America at the end of 1998. A retiree, he currently resides in Southern California with his family.

Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the blogger, poet, and translator, was born in 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. The pharmacist currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

There's magic in translating a body of work from one language to another.

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