Lê Vĩnh Tài | no. 18:13 – the first time she let down her guard

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

Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the poet and translator, born 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. The pharmacist currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.

By Lê Vĩnh Tài, translation by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

the first time she let down her guard


she was

a little embarrassed

by her thoughts


in your ears

she whispered:


“- you’ll never be able

to take away

what is mine?


you might 

be able to turn me

inside out 

once or twice, nice right…”


but you

never stayed 

long enough for her 

to open up


as usual

you would take away with you 

the pain that isn’t yours

but the fingers of those women

the embodiment of Kiều

who on 

the setting Sun

they’re gone


lần đầu tiên nàng cởi


bỏ những suy nghĩ của mình

nàng hơi

mắc cỡ

sau đó

nàng thì thầm vào tai bạn:

“- bạn sẽ không bao giờ

làm cho tôi

mất đi những gì tôi đang có?

và bạn có thể thay đổi


từ phía sau ra phía trước

một hoặc hai lần thì tốt…”


tuy nhiên, bạn đã không

ngồi lại

khi nàng cởi


thường thì bạn sẽ mang nỗi đau

ra đi

không phải bạn

mà những ngón tay

như những nàng Kiều

đến chiều

kết thúc

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

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

4 replies on “Lê Vĩnh Tài | no. 18:13 – the first time she let down her guard”

Reblogged this on Commentary, Outrages, Prose and Poetry and commented:
Happy to share this. Of the many beautiful places I have seen – and equally so the beautiful people there – the western highlands of Vietnam (from Hue through DaNang and some 30 miles south breathtaking. Though not the same places and I was there when the author was four-years-old, I still hold special fond membories of those places and times despite what was going on all around me. The Que Son Mountains, climbing up from the crystal clear and bone-chilling cold streams at bottom through boulder-strewn shoulders onto rich tangles of triple-canopy trees to the mind-shattering razor ridges – then stripped bare by war but reminding me of similar razor-sharp volcanic ridges on Oahu and Hawaii, I always will love Vietnam and its geography and people.

Liked by 1 person

And, so, I must return “thank you” for sharing. Bathing in Song Vu Gia below the northern edge of the Que Sons and just east of further anamite (sp?) corderilla it was difficult if not impossible to place myself as a U.S. Marine at war. I was more a child at play with a bar of soap, a shallow river rock-and-pebble-filled gurgling its way to the South China Sea. High up in the mountains the crisp, cold, sweet water refreshed and renewed. And, occasionally rewarded patient hands with a small trout willing to yield its flesh to share with fellow Marines who never before “tickled” trout or tasted one raw.

Liked by 1 person

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