On your return

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

Our motherland will be a worrisome place

All shrivelled up will be the rows of old areca nut 

On my back, I counted the days, 

Then the months were followed by the tears 

The old memories remained untouched

The January sky, or July just as sad

The breeze was scented in white odorata and pomelo

Then came the new year, the pain, the yearning

Your return in the shoes of a stranger

The silent meadows are asleep

A sleep I’ve desired all my life

The bloodshed plucked from my heart

Don’t cry dear, don’t be sad, avert your eyes

Look down and keep going

Soon is the night, upon the death of regret

Our footprints shall be covered by the mist, buried beneath the leaves

(December 2021)


Khi em về

Quê mẹ đấy ưu phiền nhiều quá lắm

Hàng cau già mo thương bẹ quắt queo

Anh nằm đếm những ngày rồi những tháng

Đi qua dần khi nước mắt buông theo

Kỉ niệm cũ vẫn còn nguyên vẹn đó

Trời tháng giêng, tháng bảy buồn như nhau

Gió vẫn thơm mùi hoa bưởi hoa ngâu

Rồi Tết đến, rồi lòng anh nhớ quá

Khi em về bước chân chừng xa lạ

Và cỏ hoa tất cả đã lắng im

Giấc ngủ ấy một đời anh ao ước

Từ máu mình hoài rứt khỏi đường tim

Em đừng khóc, đừng buồn, đừng nhìn nữa

Cứ cúi đầu rồi cứ thế ra đi

Trời sẽ tối, tiếc thương rồi sẽ hết

Và dấu giày mai sẽ lá sương che

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.


  1. Thank you Trâm for sharing this beautiful piece. I love the artwork too.

    “The silent meadows are asleep
    A sleep I’ve desired all my life
    The bloodshed plucked from my heart”

    These lines are so beautifully expressive. Blessings to you my friend. 🦋❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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