a house without a door

A poem in Vietnamese by Phan Nhiên Hạo
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm
Photographer: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

I live in a house without a door.

On their back, each visitor lugs their door.

In place, before we sit and talk, then,

take the door with them when they leave.

My privacy is dependent upon

the visits of these people.

Sometimes people turn up empty-handed.

These are impoverished people devoid of personality

gamblers and those with no shame

drops by to borrow money, the scoundrels.

At the sight of them from afar, quickly I would leave my house

head off to see close friends.

As I leave, I would also lug a door on my back

(The door I’ve removed from my house

only to enter other people’s houses).

(November 2020)



Tôi sống trong ngôi nhà không cửa.

Mỗi người đến thăm phải mang theo cửa

trên lưng. Lắp vào ngồi nói chuyện, xong,

khi từ biệt họ ra đi cùng với cửa.

Sự riêng tư của tôi phụ thuộc vào

việc thăm viếng của những người này.

Thỉnh thoảng có những người đến tay không

Đây là những kẻ quá nghèo không còn cá tính

Những tay chơi bạc và bọn mặt rô

ghé qua chỉ để mượn tiền hay giở trò đểu giả.

Thấy bóng những kẻ này từ xa tôi vội rời nhà

lên đường thăm những người bạn thiết.

Khi ra đi tôi cũng mang cửa trên lưng

(Cánh cửa mà tôi tháo ra từ nhà mình

nhưng chỉ để dùng ở nhà kẻ khác).

Phan Nhiên Hạo, the poet and translator born 1967 in Kontum, Vietnam, currently works and lives in Illinois, the United States of America.

Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the blogger, poet, and translator, born 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. Sorry, I was trying to keep it short, but apparently overshot.
        My question concerns line 10, “drops by to borrow money, the scoundrels.”
        Since the lines before and after refer to groups of people, my first reaction reading that was “surely they meant to say ‘drop by’, without the s”.
        Then I realised that the s turns the verb into a noun, drops, which also makes a lot of sense in that line.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Also, this anonymity is silly. Hi, I’m Elektra, I hope your Covid removes itself with all haste, being horrible company that no one invited (I’ve had it twice till now).

        Liked by 1 person

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