Lê Vĩnh Tài | no. 11:20 – without words, the poem said goodbye to its tongue

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

without words

the poem said goodbye to its tongue


but the poem’s tongue was swallowed, ended up in the stomach

shoved further into the intestines

filtered through the liver

passed by the kidneys

and so on and so on such as life


without words

meant saying goodbye to the tongue, meaning the poem had to die

it’s soaked up by the soil

dispersed in the air 

into the sky disappeared

became a part of some wordless song

time and time again

the poem’s choked up on its blood because of such victories


khi không còn chữ

bài thơ từ biệt cái lưỡi

nhưng lưỡi của bài thơ đã nuốt vào dạ dày

xuống ruột

thấm vào gan

qua thận

đời còn nhiều lận đận…

không có chữ

nên từ biệt cái lưỡi là bài thơ phải chết

hoà tan vào đất

biến mất

vào bầu trời

để trở thành một phần của những bài hát không lời

đời đời…

những vinh quang làm bài thơ hộc máu 

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

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

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