Hands and sadness

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

Your return 

A black winter

An abandoned home

Mouldy and damp

Your return

Hands cupping the tears

At the dusty threshold

Your childhood passes by

Your return

Upon the grave of a lover

Rocks strewn with flowers

Underfoot are the ticklish grass

Cold wind

Flickering of a match 

Flickering of a match

Igniting sadness

Old dreams

Lit up once more

Old photographs

Burnt out once more

Upon your return

Hands of scented smoke

Dissipating bygone sorrow

Speak, say anything, anything at all my love…

(December 2021)


Nỗi buồn và bàn tay

Khi em trở về

Trời mùa đông đen

Căn nhà không người

Và mùi ẩm mốc

Khi em trở về

Tay đầy nước mắt

Trên thành cửa bụi

Tuổi thơ đi qua

Khi em trở về

Mộ người yêu đó

Hoa trên phiến đá

Cỏ buồn ngón chân

Và cơn gió rét

Que diêm bật lên

Que diêm bật lên

Nỗi buồn thắp lên

Những mơ ước cũ

Sáng lên một lần

Những hình ảnh cũ

Tắt đi một lần

Khi em trở về

Bàn tay khói hương

Buồn xưa sắp hết

Nói gì đi em…

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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