Poetic English version of a poem in Vietnamese By TRAN TRUNG DAO

Let Me Be. . .

Let me be a Vietnamese when I die
So my soul can flutter under the Viet sky
Everyone lives only one life then demises
But one should die only to live permanently with time

Let me be a little flower, tiny and wild
In the Viet forest full of flowers, fragrant and bright
Let me walk on the thousand and one walks of life
The call of the Land sounds like mother’s lullaby.

Let me kiss the sad and innocent eyes
Of the young people whose future is not yet in sight
For so many years, they have lowered their heads with fright
In front of the atheist doctrine, the cause of their plight

Let me be a citizen of the Viet country
But when I raise my eyes, I won’t see the Gigantic Party
Let me drop fear, a sentiment both low and vile
Let me silt the sea of misery for the glorious future to arrive.


Original version in Vietnamese

It seems to Open, The Flowers of Freedom

O, my dear!
Sing to make colors more vibrant and life better
To make the blue in eyes look bluer than ever
To make happiness flow over the sea of fire
To make the golden sunlight warm up your life.

O, my dear !
Sing for the liberation of our home country
Those who left in previous years have returned
I stoop to kiss the land, bewildered I seem
I feel I am living in a beautiful dream.

In the morning, old mother wakes up
And sees her child by her bedside
The last tear drops fall, and
Become rain to cool down the land.

O, my dear!
Sing to make trees bear fruits, more and better
To make the bamboo hedge green for ever
The beauty of the country, like the moon, always shines
Let’s forget pain and sadness that will vanish with time.

O, my dear!
Democracy! you sing to eulogize
Our forests lack birds song for a long time
It seems to open, the flowers of liberty
It flows abundantly all over the nation, life energy


Original version in Vietnamese

Do you know, O, my dear! after nineteen rainy seasons
Our home country still is in somber winter?
In me, the resplendent Spring exists no longer!
Autumn is more yellow and not rosy is Summer!

Life is as sad as our country’s plight
Great aspirations wither, small ambitions are not bright
The dust of time piles up on my hair
My noble cause? No one cares or shares.

A gang of dishonest people sing high
To sell their platforms, political parties noisily try
Fatherland is somber, like in a sun eclipse
After nineteen years, the sky is still dark, pitch.

Sometimes, to be a Knight, I would like
The hero kills thousands with his sword when he strikes
But I will kill just one time, not twice
Then let bygone be bygone to turn a new page of history

Others’ poetry is full of flowers, fragrant and bright
Mine is nothing but blood and tears at night
I am crying for millions who agonize
But crying for me? No one, besides you !


Original version in Vietnamese

Alone at Seaside

I am standing at the seaside, under the sky
Gazing intently at the blurred skyline
My home country is far away, and I am in exile
My debt to Motherland isn’t paid, yet spent is half of my life!


Original version in Vietnamese


Just by chance, here I am returning,
Looking at the ocean in an April evening.
Billows rise in my heart with the chill wind,
That from my dear Pacific Ocean is blowing.

I find myself nearer to Viet mounts and rivers
But with the immense distance, it’s just a bit nearer
Whether my country after ten years of change, I wonder
Has scored any improvement in human love.

Since the time the moon set behind the hill side,
And I carried the Muse into the bloody life,
The loss of my country has been torturing my mind
And I have been trying day and night to see my hope realized.

In this alien country, I am erring with no love.
The few plans I’ ve made, all ended with failure !
This evening, here, in San Francisco, I hear my soul quiver
Where are you bound for? O, the Viet birds who suffer!

By chance, heavy rain drops of sad autumn time
Fall and wet my shoulders to worsen my plight
April Thirty! After ten long, long years of exile,
The obsession still remains strong and alive!


Original version in Vietnamese

O, Mother! We are going away!

Dear Mother,
We are Vietnamese expatriates in exile
On our departure, we promised no return time
We are not dew, but why do we cry at night ?
We are not wind, but why storms are our lives ?
We are not clouds, but why are we drifting under the sky ?
We are not jungles, but why do we wither in autumn time ?

For eighteen years
We have been living in lethal obscurity in the wild
We have been marching up mount down dale
For thousands and thousands of long miles
Bewildered, we look at mankind and feel sorry for our plight.

For eighteen years
The pain we nurtured has been growing bigger and bigger
Our wound has been infested with lots of matter
We turn our head in the direction of our home country
Sadness has not come to our hearts, yet we cry bitterly.

The land of Vietnam
Lies curled up like a beggar
In agony in a street corner
Like a tear rolling but has not dripped
Like the curved back of mother carrying a sky of love

We have enjoyed our home country more than one time
The sugar canes, the bamboo trees, the mulberries, and the paddies !
The popular songs sweet and milky
That flow into the soul with motherÆs voice of honey.
We are kites with broken strings, falling into life
And fluttering aimlessly in an alien sky.

We often think of our four-thousand-year-long history
In the era of Hung Vuong dynasty
Our ancestors, with bare feet and hands, built our country
Bloodshed and hard work were needed to make it steady
When Trung Trac, in the Hat River drowned herself dramatically
She wanted to conserve her chastity and loyalty to the country
Tran Binh Trong wanted to be decapitated by the enemy
Rather than surrender to the invaders
Because of his profound patriotic love .

O, Mother! the moon is now crescent, now full
But patriotism should be constant, not like the moon.


Original version in Vietnamese

The Old Soldier
Died Last Night

An old Vietnamese soldier of olden war time
Just died last night
On San Jose dusty road, under the street lights.
He had traveled many thousand miles
Before coming here to silently die
With no gun report to mark his demise
With no loved ones present at the time
With no one saying good-bye
To him when he agonized.

The old Vietnamese soldier
Like a wild beast was erring
On the freeway full of cars humming and speeding
A sudden cry echoed in the rainy night
A leaf was gone with the wind painfully
A hiccup rose in the deserted night, dolorously.

Where was his wife ?
Why didnÆt she come to close his eyes ?
Where were his children ?
Why didnÆt they come for mourning?
He went and came in a hurry in this life
With no loved ones to say good-bye !

Civilized people have different ways of living
While my compatriots have bizarre ways of dying!
A pregnant lady, holding her husband tight, jumped into the sea
So, fallen into the Thai piratesÆ hand, she would not be
So the billows of the East sea could sing pathetically
The eternal song of chastity and loyalty
And to the Viet coast line, could carry her body
So, both in the morning and evening, the high tides
Would carry her flesh and blood to enrich Motherland, mine.

There was a mother who woke up at midnight
And went to town to sell her blood to buy
Milk that her baby child needed to stay alive
On her way back, when she just approached home
She fell down from lack of blood and expired,
Without seeing her baby child for the last time.
With no milk for his hunger, the sick baby died
ôMommy!ö was his last cry when he agonized.
The drops of blood that killed both mother and child
Were used as ink to write the bloody pages of our history
So that the water of the Red River
Could always flow with carmine color,
The color of the blood of Vietnamese mothers.

Last night one more Vietnames son
Died on a San JoseÆs street all of a sudden
He did not die in Lower Laos, Binh Long or Cua Viet
He did not die in Ham Tan, Suoi Mau or Hoang Lien Son
His death in an alien country is much sadder
For on his tombstone would appear a line of American letters.
He was a Vietnamese born in the wrong century
And died at the wrong place, really !
On the faraway other side of the ocean, tonight,
His country is still being immersed in a sea of fire !

O, Big brother! to you I write these lines
From the bottom of the heart of your Little Brother,
Who, like you, is also in exile !
We are two leaves of the same branch, you and I
We quiver in each and every storm of life.
O, Big Brother! Go to sleep in the world of no light
Your suffering, I certainly take your place to write.


Original version in Vietnamese

Let Me Be. . .

Let me be a Vietnamese when I die
So my soul can flutter under the Viet sky
Everyone lives only one life then demises
But one should die only to live permanently with time

Let me be a little flower, tiny and wild
In the Viet forest full of flowers, fragrant and bright
Let me walk on the thousand and one walks of life
The call of the Land sounds like mother’s lullaby.

Let me kiss the sad and innocent eyes
Of the young people whose future is not yet in sight
For so many years, they have lowered their heads with fright
In front of the atheist doctrine, the cause of their plight

Let me be a citizen of the Viet country
But when I raise my eyes, I won’t see the Gigantic Party
Let me drop fear, a sentiment both low and vile
Let me silt the sea of misery for the glorious future to arrive.


Original version in Vietnamese

Please, Do Not Ask !

I am older than my age, but don’t ask why
It has no meaning at all, the element of time
When my age is the amount of sadness and worry
That constantly accompany my steps and me.
Do not ask if Motherland is pretty
When hatred and revenge is still dyeing red our country
Who just stepped on a land mine that war left behind ?
War is not truly over even though it has been ended for a long timeDo not ask the age of old parents
We have never told them the story of our life
Please, let the pain and suffering be dormant
Hopefully the heart wound will heal with time.Do not ask if I want to return to my homeland
A dead leaf returns to the tree’s foot, after leaving the branch
We cannot wander all our life
In alien lands like persons in exile.You wish me the best for my hope about the future
Yes, I still have a small hope, that is, hereafter
For the day of return I will still be alive
To kiss Motherland one more time..HOAI VAN TUOriginal version in Vietnamese

Do not Return

Saigon has died, after your leaving
In the rain, tamarind trees look solitary
Do not return ! There is nothing left, nothing
My beauty of yore has withered, really.

After your departure winter has been sad and lonely
And in the rainy season, it has rained abundantly.
Do not return! I need no one to accompany me
Let me sit and listen to leaves weeping in trees

Do not return! O, my dear! Do not come back !
Do not return! No one blame you for not coming back
What is the use of your return ? The dream is over
What is the use of your return ? O, dear!

What is the use of your coming back ?
After you left, my heart has been closed
With piled up pain, misery, and suffering
Do not return ! For you, no one is longing
The swallow has gone and now, dead is Spring.


There Are People Who Do not sleep Tonight

Vietnam’s Breath

To commemorate Police Lt. Col. LONG who
committed suicide at the foot of the Viet Marine
Statue in Saigon, in the morning of APR 30, 1975

On the grass you lay down
On this soil your blood dripped about
The soil now is still brown
And the grass is still green somehow
The morning sun rays are bright
The dew drops shine
Like your eyes when you were still alive
At the foot of the Marine Statue in the morning light,
When on Motherland you set your brilliant sight.

Col. LONG! No one knows the name of your family
Is it Ngo ? Is it Le? Is it Tran? or is it Ly?
Is your full name Nguyen Van Long ?
No, your name has its origin, definitely

From mountains, forests, rivers, and seas
From legends that mothers told their children at night
From the time when Father Lac Long took fifty sons to the seaside
And Mother Au Co led fifty other sons up to the mountainside
From the time when the birds LAC flew to the South for the better
And built their nests along the Red and Mekong Rivers
Your name has its origin from the time the Vietnamese Dragon
Breathed fire to burn jungles, to build up our territory,
And to give you the breath of life,
The breath of Vietnam that keeps the Vietnamese alive.

In the morning of April Thirty, you returned to Mother
Under the Vietnamese sky, your soul fluttered
Everything, everyone seemed to be in mourning, even children
Motherland sadly said adieu to her beloved son
You felt pangs in your heart when the tanks of the enemy
Crushed the streets of Saigon, our beloved capital city
When your hope was crushed flat under the enemy tanks.
When the soviet bullet hit VietnamÆs head with a big bang
When the Chinese bayonet cut VietnamÆs heart wide open
During these last ten centuries,, all of a sudden,
The sky and soil of Motherland was blackened
Mothers, fathers, grandparents, and children
Looked at one another, bewildered and frightened.

A new regime started immediately
With revenge hatred, terror, and misery
With the sound of T54 crushing our raceÆs soul that cried
Hatred and humiliation slashed your heart and mind
You chose for yourself a honorable demise.
You fell down in the heart of Saigon, with no full name
But for millenniums to come, you would be remembered all the same,
As Lt. Col. LONG, who fell down with the fall of the country.

Now, above your head, clouds sail in the sky
The sun still rises everyday to make dew drops shine
Dew drops are like tears of old mother
Who cries over her son cadaver
They are the tearful eyes of your wife at your demise
The soil still has the warm brown color of the Vietnamese love
Still fresh on your grave are grass and wild flowers
Your blood was shed to embellish life
The roads of your little brothers, your blood beautifies
We are boats using you as a port somehow
For our sea journey, you are the lighthouse
Full of obstacles is the road to liberty
But the hope you instilled in us makes it easy
O, dear son of Motherland! Thank you a million
For bequeathing the Viet breath to coming generations.

Original version in Vietnamese

A Thousand Years of Time For Mother’s Smile

I pick the phone and a trauma almost makes me cry
Whose voice is this ? A dead leaf falling in autumn time ?
Ten years! O, mom! for over ten years, I
Have been missing you in silence all the time!

On my departure I did not promise anything
Like a wild pony, I have been wandering
Ten years have turned the black of your hair into a sad white
Each time I think of you, the white dyes my heart and mind

O, Mom! sadness, you are still weaving
In a life full of rain and wind
I gather dry leaves from all corners of the sky
And make a fire to dissipate the mist of life.

Your voice sounds like a sobbing
Is it real or am I just dreaming ?
You are now too far away for me to reach
O, Mom ! when could we again meet ?

Do not cry! O, Mom! Keep waiting!
I will hide my emotion in my writing
I will write on the leaves all my suffering
In dreams, I will find your warmth, so comforting!

I pick up the phone and get a trauma
Your voice is sadder than the rain coming from afar
I would use a thousand years of my time
For your laughter and smile


A Vietnamese Girl On Sri Ayuthaya Boulevard

A Vietnamese girl on Sri Ayuthaya Boulevard
In Bangkok, is standing in a corner; burying
Her face in her hands she bitterly cries
This is not Saigon, she seems to realize.

Sad autumn is the hair of the belle
For it is dry and quite disheveled
In the wind of an alien land, it flutters in disorder
Prostitute at the age of sixteen !
Floating like a sea foam she has been
Her home country is too poor to nurture her
She gets into harlotry, hoping for the better.

Her age is like the morning star, just rising
It is as beautiful as an orchid flower, blooming
It is the beginning of Spring
With flowers and butterflies, flying
With dream love, delicate and ascending.
In school she should now be
To learn how to be a decent Vietnamese lady
To learn sewing, baby nursing, and embroidery
To learn all about love
That, like the moon, illuminates life for the better.

But today, she has lost everything
Her innocent age, her life
In Bangkok it is drizzling
Of Saigon’s June shower, is it reminding?
She recalls the dark alley to her house
That was always somber somehow.

O, little sister!
You may think of your younger siblings looking
For the news from their big sister, now faraway, living
They live under a sky of missing and longing
Where sad white clouds for ever are flying.
Does the Chao Phraya River troubled water
Remind you of your own Nha Be River
Of the small creeks full of algae and trash
Of the poorly maintained sewers with black water
Black is now your Motherland’s color
Which cannot be the same for ever.

Does your trying to learn a few Thai words
Remind you of the days when you were only five
Your father taught you to spell the word Vietnam.
You tried several times
Finally you got it right
Mom gave you a sweet kiss as prize
With hope in his mind, Dad gave a big smile
The fire of hope for your future started to light
The fire of yore that would illuminate your bright future
Is now extinguished by the storms of life.

When your trade makes your flesh sore and tired,
Do you cry alone in the absence of light
Each of your tears carries penitence
Each of your moan hides repentance
Your sad hair is injustice strings
That cruelly tie up your life
In this alien land, where are you going tonight ?
Where are you going when the rain storm covers the river.

The Vietnamese girl
On Sri Ayuthaya Boulevard
Closes her eyes to look at interminable life.

The pages of Vietnam history
Have so many ups and downs
Many pages are dark and somber
But this page is worse and darker
Once our ancestors had to dive for pearls in the sea
To go to the forested mountains for elephantsÆ ivory
There were times when, red with blood, were our rivers
When our ancestorsÆ bones were decomposed in jungle corners
But there never were Vietnamese girls, in our history,
Who had to sell their own flesh for food, overseas.

This shame could never be wiped out
But the shame is not yours alone
It is also any decent VietnameseÆs mortification
Who knows the meaning of national humiliation.

I try to finish this poem tonight
Although I know I canÆt hand to you these lines
My poem is a confidence of a weak big brother
Who, to the sea of suffering, sets his sight
Bewildered in the market of life
With a serious wound in the heart and mind
Like an outsider, I just look at the suffering
Material abundance in America makes me forget everything
Including my seventy millions compatriots who are suffering
And those little brothers and sisters wandering overseas
I forget even my own misery in infancy
When hatred and resentment prevailed, I left my country
I did promise that one day I would return for the better:
Peace for Motherland in every corner
Vital energy for every inch of our land, mounts and rivers.

ThatÆs the dream of yore
I do not want to mention it anymore
But it silently becomes alive in dreams at night
Am I crying alone this time ?
Or just in poetry, do I cry ?
It is only a grain of dust that gets into my eye
To mark the loss of a decent life?


Original version in Vietnamese

O, Mother! You Are Poetry
That will revitalize Motherland

O, Mother! You sit in a bus for two hours’ time
Just to come and listen to my rhymes
They are full of sadness, my lines
It comes from your heart, the poetry of mine!

Seventy five years !
Life is full of up and down
But your life remains the same somehow
The dust of time cannot cover up melancholy
Life in an alien land won’t make the past muddy
You always have hope high in you mind
Looking at the blue sky, you expect the future to be bright

Do you wait for me for a long time,
Like you wait for Motherland to be revitalized ?
The betel garden and the areca trees, who fertilizes?
You left our home country, relatives, and neighbors,
And also the graves of our ancestors.

Are you sad ?
You have endured hardship all your life
After seventy five years, your life
Will run out of fuel in a short while.
ThatÆs the fault of your children
Whom the bullets hit all of a sudden

We carry our wounds wherever we go
Is my sad poetry or is it our blood drips that show?

You take a two-hour bus trip
To come and listen to my poetry
Sadder than tears are my rhymes
I know you suffer but refuse to cry
As we do : we walk in misery wearing a forced smile!

Is there any race that like birds
Fly for millenniums without stopping?
You carry dolor and keep marching
For seventy five years without returning!
You come to each and every bookstore in San Jose
Trying to market and sell the poems I write
Like you sell your inexhaustible immense love
And even your suffering to indifferent mankind!

No one needs to read my poetry
Because I am an unknown poet and writer
I write about things that no one likes to remember
Things about Vietnam, that faraway land of misery
Fifteen years went by like water flowing, the bridge under
DonÆt be sad, O Mother! If there is no buyer
For the essence of my poetry will last for millenniums or ever.

Thanks to you, O dear Mother! My poetry still has hope, high
You are poetry, and so, Motherland will be revitalized.


Original version in Vietnamese

A Crazy Mother

I was on the sidewalk of Dong Khoi street in daytime
I saw a woman holding a pillow, singing high
As if she were somehow heavily imbibed
O my dear! Do not die!

Milk will soon arrive!
If Dad comes back and you have died
How should I reply
When he asks about your demise ?

People told me her story :
Her husband was sent to a Northern penitentiary
Then her baby son died suddenly
And she became crazy.

She lived with her children
Under a big sheet of nylon
She fed her children
With potato and cassava.

Her health deteriorated rapidly
She had to leave the land of New Economyö
For Saigon, a big and very crowded city,
Where life for the poor is nothing but misery

Her youngest son, a baby child
Was sick and cried for milk every night
Having no money to buy and nothing to sell
She had to sell blood of herself.

She went to Cho Ray Blood Bank
For the last time of her life
To sell her blood to buy
milk for her sick child.

On her way back, she dropped by
A store and bought milk for her child
Exhausted she fell down and passed out
For a long, long while.

Her sick child
Waiting for milk to arrive,
From sickness and hunger expired
With no mother by his side

When she came back
Her baby had died
She hold the cold body of her child
She lost her mind and sang a lullaby.

– O, my son! do not die
Milk will soon arrive
If Dad comes back and you have died
How should I reply

Last night I had a dream
I saw myself hugging a pillow
On Dong Khoi street, standing
And like crazy, singing.


original version in Vietnamese

A Place With No Springtime

At a place with no springtime
Where birds do not like to come even for a short while
Everyday I pass by that unfamiliar hamlet
Sadness sticks to my hair, missing follows my steps.

Tears, the drops of Saigon sun look like
My maidenhood evaporates with the sunlight
Without you, the streets are deserted and wild
Sad reminiscences bother my sleep at night.

I think of the To Thi legend constantly
To Thi, that Vietnamese lady,
Raised silkworms, wove silk for a living.
And veneered her husband as if he were a king
This legend you told me in time past
I know it by heart for fear that when you come back
You would blame me for not remembering.

I hid my sadness and suffering in day time
I only cried at night for if you knew I was in distress
You would laugh at me because of my weakness
I took our baby to the New Economyö area
I learned to work in the fields and to raise cassava
Exposed to the elements, my skin is neither smooth nor white
My hair, because of the sun and rain becomes coarse and dry
But I still keep my innocent smile
So that when you come back you won’t see tears in my eyes.

The tree of hope I planted
Has been doing well and appears luxuriant
It grows from my sweat dripping when I give it care
My heart is always faithful and I want you to share
My love that remains, intense and fresh as ever.

With no notice, this morning
You come back with a stranger lady
Since your departure, our son and I endured misery
DonÆt you think that an apology is enough for me!

You have forgotten our primrose days
And all the sweet memories of the recent past, say!
You come back to look at the past with indifferent eyes
When humiliation weighs heavily on your life
What have you done in your prime ?
Getting a position, making money ?
And enjoying the perfumed flesh of a pretty lady?
Your young wife cannot understand, no, never
Why you are not honest with yourself.

What do you have to say about the misery of the country
That is still immersed in blood, and tears of agony ?
On your departure, you solemnly swore and pledged
But on your return you avert your eyes from Motherland
What do you have to say about the suffering
Of our compatriots still in somber penitentiaries ?
Before dying, Father did tell you to try
To be a gentleman by standing straight with the head high
The golden dream you wove in your twenties
Has been replaced by a soul spoiled by debauchery
The moon of love vow is still bright in me
After ten long years of waiting, I expect you to tell me
Something sweet and dainty.

With love, a blue sweater, I was knitting
For you to wear upon your returning,
When in the faraway land, your wings were still flapping
And here the pines were singing the eternal song of missing.

Go away! DonÆt return here any time
I will not regret anything but I will cry
I feel sorry for your corrupted life
After all those years in penitentiary
Is that all youÆve got for all your pain and misery ?


         Original version in Vietnamese

Related Articles

Check Also
Back to top button