the children asleep on the pavement

A poem in Vietnamese by Thái Hạo
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm
Art: Nguyễn Tấn Vĩ

the children asleep on the pavement
the changing autumn leaves
the heart of the city abandoned

I’m tapping on the screen
tap tapping out a verse
drawn in by its rhythm
whisk away 
by the flow of the imagination

Not a soul there left
as vines of ivy glide across the pavement
the tumulus
in the blaring bluish 
sickly white

August 2021
những đứa trẻ con nằm ngủ trên vỉa hè
mùa thu thay lá
không có ai đi dưới lòng đường

Anh ngồi gõ một câu thơ
vào màn hình
thèm nghe nhịp chữ
trên dòng sông tưởng tượng

Không còn ai ở đó
dây thường xuân bò xuống lòng đường
cỏ mộ
dưới trăng vằng vặc
màu trắng
xanh xao

Thái Hạo, the poet and journalist is currently living in Vietnam.

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. In late 1980, before I turned 10 we would find ourselves on the pavement somewhere, my family was trying to leave Vietnam in the dark of night. We sometimes get stranded overnight on the pavement. If it rained, I remembered staying in some cogon grass hut. The image of rain dripping from the tips of the dry beigh blades of cogon grass never leaves me. There was a hand full of failed trips like that. We would go back to attick my dad bought after selling our home to fund our place on a ten by 5m boat… The poem above is a collection of thoughts about family leaving the city for their homes in the country, since they were only in the city to work, but could no longer afford the rent during the city lockdown. It brought back unexpected trauma.. Translating it helped me, I’m able to let go of more of it perhaps. Heheh, sorry about the rant my dear friend, but you have such a wonderful ear for listening. God bless you Joni. xx


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