On my return

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

Upon my return gone will be the old house

Sadness draped along the long walls

Arms and shoulders covered in dust

Eyes shielded by tired moments

Crude dry fidgeting fingers

The scent of new leaves cut short

You’re so far away now but the old well remains cool

Head bowed, I fiddled with my wrinkles

The quiet water droplets brought with them sudden joy

Like a gentle breeze dropping by for a visit

The strangers stared at me as I stared at my shadow

The dreamlike memories rose in shivers

Retreated soundly into the past were the dreamlike memories

Confronting through the clear water

I lift gently my hands as I closed my eyes

Overwhelmed by the pulsating pounding of my heart

(December 2021)


Khi anh về

Khi anh về căn nhà xưa đã mất

Buồn phơi trên từng những bức tường dài

Và cánh tay, và lớp bụi trên vai

Những ngày tháng mỏi mòn che lấy mắt

Bàn tay thô hàng ngón sần ngơ ngác

Mùi lá non trên đường chỉ dở dang

Em xa rồi giếng xưa giờ vẫn mát

Anh cúi đầu vỗ trên vết da nhăn

Những giọt nước âm thầm đem nỗi vui chợt đến

Như cơn gió hiền chợt nhớ về thăm

Những người lạ nhìn anh, anh cúi đầu nhìn bóng

Thấy mơ hồ những nỗi nhớ run lên

Hình ảnh ấy đã chìm trong dĩ vãng

Đối diện anh bằng một mặt nước trong

Anh nhấc khẽ bàn tay rồi nhắm mắt

Tiếng võ vàng khua động trong thâm tâm

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 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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