you put up with a grain of sunlight

A poem in Vietnamese by Lê Vĩnh Tài
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm
Photography: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm


you put up with a grain of sunlight 

so you’re allowed the privilege of embracing

her grenade 

her love is an explosion hotter than light 


you put up with the shadow 

so you may fall asleep 


you could still 

discern her light

“are you still awake?” 

she asks


half awake

you’re allowed the privilege of replying

“right now? Sure, I can put up with having sex with you”


you put up with her madness

till you’re about to break


then you can boast all you want 


the freedom of speech 


she cries:

“you’re drunk

and your name is forbidden

in my heart


I will shed a few more tears

and gentler will be my act of love

because you no longer 

force me to put up with you


you could into me

unburden all you want

I will put up with the glass being half empty

and you don’t have to put up with being a glass half full


it’s so hard to be sweet 

when I am ruthless

you say you will put up with having sex with me

I say 

you are rather daft


I’m inebriated by the memory of you”

December 2022


bạn chịu một hạt nắng 

sau đó bạn được yêu

bằng trái lựu đạn của nàng 

nóng hơn ánh sáng  


bạn chịu một bóng tối 

sau đó bạn chìm

vào giấc ngủ


bạn vẫn nghe ánh sáng của nàng: 

– anh còn thức không? 


vẫn nửa tỉnh nửa mê 

bạn được quyền trả lời: 

– anh chịu yêu em  


bạn chịu 

khi nàng điên rồ

cho đến khi sắp vỡ 


và bạn được khoe mình tha hồ 

tự do ngôn luận 


nàng khóc:

anh uống say rồi

tên của anh 

bị cấm  

trong trái tim em 


em sẽ khóc thêm một chút 

yêu nhẹ nhàng hơn một chút

vì anh không còn

làm em chịu nữa


anh chỉ có thể 

trút hết vào em 

em chịu anh là chiếc ly cạn một nửa

anh không chịu mình là chiếc ly đầy một nửa


thật khó để dịu dàng

khi em phải tàn nhẫn

anh nói anh chịu yêu

em nói anh ngu ngốc 


em say trong

ký ức về anh

Lê Vĩnh Tài, the poet and translator born in 1966 in Buon Ma Thuot, Daklak, Vietnam. The retired doctor is still a resident of the Western Highlands and a businessman in Buon Ma Thuot.

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. Wowwwww I LOOOVVVVEEEEE THIS NGUYEN!!!! This truly incredible and I really love that perspective on love—just putting up with what we can. It makes me wonder if that is just a toxic relationship or if that is love over all—just putting up with little things every here and there, now and then to accomplish the bigger goal. THANK YOU FOR TRANSLATING AND SHARING!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Unfortunately, most of what is widely circulating as “poetry” is a little lack lustered (some of my poems are too, and that’s why I’m reading more and learning more about the art haha). But I think you’re already doing a great job by going back and reading famous poems of your ancestors 🙂 Happy 2023 Nguyen!

        Liked by 1 person

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