By Nguyễn Khánh Duy, translation by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm
My throat swells up, and the tears fall in a mixture of sadness and hope upon your acknowledgement of my pain, my family’s pain, the pain of more than 700,000 Vietnamese boat people. More so from a poet of your generation, Gen Z, my children, I am beyond grateful for your acknowledgement of our truth.
The pain is buried so deep, swept aside for countless decades in attempts to leave them behind, so it may be forgotten. Such scars are ingrained in each chained of our DNA. How could we forget.
We must acknowledge such hurtful truths, to ever move on. Acknowledge it yes, but we must never forget. Because it is our history, such a pill could never be swallowed whole, it must be chewed, the bitterness ground down, savoured, before it is swallowed, and washed down with blood and tears, to there, in our hearts, stored for the generations to come.
Thank you Nguyễn Khánh Duy,
The Migrating Swifts
The flock of swifts from the sea took flight
an ensued exodus
head off with memories
packed tightly in their mouths
in search of a homeland.
They flew across the Sun
part of the way left behind,
they flew past the moon
the Square(Ba Dinh) a distant memory,
they never looked back nor did they looked at each other
nor were there any postulation of what’s ahead,
with their eyes closed they flew.
A flock of birds with the memories of a homeland
packed tightly in their mouths,
headed for an oasis out of view
to drop a homeland on an alien sea.
Đoàn chim cất cánh từ biển
theo chuyến thiên di
ngậm chặt kỷ niệm trong miệng
tìm quê hương phía trước.
Họ bay qua mặt trời
một quảng trường bỏ lại,
họ bay qua nguyệt cầu
một sân khấu lãng quên,
họ không nhìn lại cũng không nhìn nhau
cũng không đoái trông phía trước,
họ nhắm mắt và bay.
Đoàn chim ngậm chặt quê hương trong miệng,
bay về ốc đảo chưa hình thành
để thả quê hương xuống một vùng biển lạ.