Lê Vĩnh Tài | AN EPIC ODE OF UKRAINE – 16/43 – exploding bombs like a melody

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 blogger, 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

March 5th, 2022

exploding bombs

like a melody

mother bouncing as she ran with a child in her arms through the fog


submachine guns 

rattling like the wind

a baby abandoned in a flapping tent at the border


the shrieks of fire

an entire port foaming at the mouth

fleets of basket vessels fighting the tearful tides


atomic bomb, how could it represent the people’s voice

the word thought to be PATIENCE(NHẪN)

to think it should be HEART(TÂM)

*“NHẪN TÂM”; the heartlessness

*Through the translation of this poem I had to do a mini research on the evolution of the Vietnamese language. A fulfilling aspect of discovering new vocabulary. The “NHẪN TÂM” had always implied cruelty, and I’ve never given it more thought. The Vietnamese written text was in classical Chinese, the character patient is the sum of two characters: the character representing a knife balanced on top of the character representing the heart. Hence without this balance, without fortitude or forbearance the heart is severed, we end up with “NHẪN TÂM”, we’re heartless, we become cruel, and pain a consequence. Thus, sadly my translation has lost an aspect of the original text.


NHẪN: the knife is balanced atop the heart; patience; forbearance; fortitude


TÂM: heart


NHẪN TÂM: the knife cuts the heart; heartless


MARCH 2020



tiếng bom

như một giai điệu

mẹ bồng em chạy giữa sương mù 


tiếng tiểu liên 

như gió ném

em bé chơi vơi trong cái lều nơi biên giới 


tiếng lửa cháy 

sủi bọt một hải cảng 

những hạm đội thuyền thúng bơi trong thủy triều nước mắt


hạt nhân, vần với tiếng dân 

tưởng là chữ NHẪN

ai ngờ chữ TÂM..

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

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

2 replies on “Lê Vĩnh Tài | AN EPIC ODE OF UKRAINE – 16/43 – exploding bombs like a melody”

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