Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm | Papa retirement (220)

I was born 1971, Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. My family and I were a part of the first exodus of boat people after the Vietnam war. In March 1981, we settled in Sydney, Australia. I graduated with a bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney. I have been translating Vietnamese literature for the past five years in my search to better understand my mother’s language and culture. My translations have been shared through blogging over the past year. I am still a registered pharmacist practicing in Western Sydney. I hope to continue translating, and continue to share Vietnamese art and literature, beyond borders on SONGNGUTAITRAM.
(July 2021)

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm


Papa retirement

Every year papa said— this year I will retire, definitely! At 72, papa is saying no— Congratulation.s papa. I had no other words. (That was a few days ago)

I will never meet a man like my papa. Five feet tall, square jaw, big bright eyes and a voice that commands quiet. Barely taller than mama he commands the room.

When we left East Hills hostel, papa knocked on every door until they said yes. Who could say no? Because to every question papa’s answer was—yes! Papa first job was as a carpenter, since they asked— are you a carpenter? Yes! I came to Australia with empty hand! Holding his palms together face up.

The years drifted away, the factory hand became the supervisor, the supervisor became manager, papa’s name became synonymous with employer. Papa helped employed the unemployable; the old uncle with a hearing problem who could speak two words of English and they were— yes, yes; the drug addict son of the Vietnamese Catholic acolyte at a neighbouring parish. I wish not to mention the anxieties some of these people have put my papa through; the court cases, the accusations. But, my papa understood and forgave them, he never brings it home.

My papa is a slight man in height, but a giant in the hearts of the people who loves and respect him.

Papa the day is finally near
To ever share with mama my dear
Your sweat laden laborious years
Edged in the foundation mortar here

Your children educated strong
The generation proud in throngs
Papa such foot steps through the two seas
The miles on gravel dirt sand, no gongs

Papa you can now say—no
Do very very little so
Feet on the stool by the pool
Watch the crickets chirping oh…

To you papa, I love you
I wish you well.



Friday 3rd, November 2017


By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

There's magic in translating a body of work from one language to another.

6 replies on “Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm | Papa retirement (220)”

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