the smell of rats, mice roasting

A short story in Vietnamese by Lê Vĩnh Tài
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm
Photography: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

you light the stove
because you hate the darkness
and the cold

but the new tinder was kinda cold
with care you tend to the fire

fiddling
fussing
a trifle muddled
by the arrival of howling wind
you’re by the dying ashes
the coal flying
like dust

the smell of
rats, mice
roasting in the early morning chill

you’re in a state of shock
by her burning stove
thin
eyes hollowed
wide open
like the guy next door’s
cough

you manage 
a few words
f-ire fire
l-i-ar liar
to finish the poem
so you may rain
and she can breath

as though never known to her was oxygen
---

bạn đốt lò 
vì ghét bóng tối 
và giá lạnh 

nhưng cái que cời mới lạnh làm sao khi
bạn lụi hụi chụm lửa 

mò mẫm 
rờ rẫm 
lẩm cẩm 
cuối cùng tiếng gió hú 
bạn bên mớ tro tàn 
than bay 
như bụi 

mùi 
chuột lớn, chuột nhỏ 
cháy thơm trong buổi sáng giá lạnh 

bạn sững sờ 
bên bếp lửa nàng 
gầy 
hốc hác 
hai mắt mở to 
như tiếng ho 
của anh chàng hàng xóm 

bạn lọm khọm 
mấy chữ 
lờ ưa lưa hỏi lửa 
lờ ưa lưa huyền lừa 
cho xong một bài thơ 
để sau đó bạn mưa 
và nàng thở

như thể nàng chưa từng biết ô-xy

Lê Vĩnh Tài, the poet and translator born in 1966 in Buon Ma Thuot, Daklak, Vietnam. The retired doctor is still a resident of the Western Highlands and a businessman in Buon Ma Thuot.

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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