A poem in Vietnamese by Vũ Trọng Quang
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm



A child in one arm, an instrument in the other

no hands left to wave down the nostalgic burning forest

I am me at the foot of the bridge

my breath the stench of fish

bathing in the dark waters of the river

I grew up by the call of the paperboy

I grew up by the clanking tin of shoe polish

on the other side of the river you grew into a woman

my love delivered to you in silence.


My father lost his life in the forest

my mother knitting splitting the tips of her fingers

the tears fell in the two syllables of hero

I continued to walk the against the length of the Annamite range

undoing the safety catch, shooting the flare

the fierce battle over

yet peace was attained by none

you and I decided upon a new contrariety


My mother no longer knits

her fingers bleeds still

her fingers pressing on the strings of the instrument

the notes fell in the two syllables of hero.


My children drew me

in undefined features.


(Christmas 2019)




Một tay ôm con một tay ôm đàn

không còn tay nào mẹ vẫy chào khu rừng lãng mạn khói lửa

tôi bắt đầu tôi dưới chân cầu

thở mùi tanh của cá

tắm dòng sông nước đen

từ tiếng rao bán báo tôi lớn lên

từ tiếng gõ vào thùng đánh giầy tôi lớn lên

em dậy thì bên kia sông

tôi tỏ tình bằng im lặng.


Cha tôi bỏ xác trên rừng

mẹ ngồi đan áo mũi kim đâm vào đầu ngón tay

nước mắt rơi xuống hai chữ anh hùng

tôi tiếp tục đi ngược chiều Trường Sơn

mở khóa an toàn bắn chỉ thiên

cuộc chiến khốc liệt đã kết thúc

mỗi chúng ta chưa có hoà bình

tôi và em bày ra một xung đột khác


Mẹ không còn ngồi đan áo

ngón tay còn nhỏ máu

ngón tay bấm vào dây đàn

nốt nhạc rơi xuống hai chữ anh hùng.


Con tôi vẽ chân dung tôi

không rõ nét.

Vũ Trọng Quang, the poet currently lives in Saigon, 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. Nguyen, I love this so much. Wow. At times, I love to read poetry with some music playing in the background. I just had my playlist on shuffle, but as soon as I started reading this piece, this song started playing from my playlist:

    It was such a moving experience to hear the acoustics of this song, and singer’s voice, and the pace of the song, while I read this piece. Thank you for sharing. I’d recommend rereading it again while having that song play in the background. You may like the experience. Wow, I love this poem and the story it tells, how it tells it.

    Much love, bestie ✨

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I already have a bestie my age! Haha I want a bestie your age, and that’s you! I have besties with all sorts of ages—some are older than you haha. And don’t worry, I can drop dead at any given moment too! 🙂 We can be friends for whatever amount of time we have left in this state of being, bestie 💕

        Liked by 1 person

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