Lê Vĩnh Tài | no. 15:3 – the babies sucking their thumbs in the maternity ward

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 babies sucked their thumbs in the maternity ward

mother’s milk was overflowing

the fragrant seeped

through the walls

the hospital hallways


the scent was so that

even the hallways were mesmerised

by the baby thumbs


cravings for a drop of coffee

a teaspoon

tiny tiny amount

mixed in a world of thumbs

in deep sleep

the anxious fathers in the hallway

couldn’t possibly



những em bé nằm bú tay trong khoa Sản


sữa mẹ thênh thang

thơm cả hành lang

bệnh viện

mùi thơm

làm cả hành lang mê sảng

ngón tay của bé

chợt thèm một chút cà phê

một muỗng nhỏ

nhỏ nhỏ nhỏ

pha vào thế giới những ngón tay

đang ngủ say

mà ngoài hành lang những ông bố loay hoay

không làm sao

hiểu được…

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

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

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