Nguyễn Đình Toàn | Upon your return(em) (5)

Nguyễn Đình Toàn first penned under Tô Hà Vân, born September 6th, 1936 at Gia Lâm, by the Red river, outside of Hanoi. Left for South Vietnam in 1954, there he became actively involved in the arts, literature, poetry, plays, music, in association with literary magazines like Văn, Văn học. He collaborated with Trần Phong Giao for many years in the selection of literature for Văn Magazine. He took up the position as the editor of Saigon Radio after that, and became known for the Music programme in the early seventies. He was captured twice after 1975, and was imprisoned in a re-education camp for nearly six years. He and his wife, Madame Thu Hồng, settled in the United States of America at the end of 1998. A retiree, he currently resides in South California with his family.

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 Nguyễn Đình Toàn, translation by Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm


Upon your return(em)


Our motherland will be a worrisome place

All shrivelled up will be the rows of old areca nut 

On my back, I counted the days, 

Then the months followed by the tears 


The old memories remained untouched

The January sky, or July just as sad

The breeze scented in white odorata and pomelo

Then came new year, the pain, the yearning


Your return in the shoes of a stranger

The meadows silent, asleep

A sleep I’ve desired all my life

The bloodshed plucked from my heart


Don’t cry dear, don’t be sad, avert your eyes

Look down and keep going

Soon is the night, upon the death of regret

Our footprints shall be covered by the mist, buried under leaves


(December 2021)



Khi em về


Quê mẹ đấy ưu phiền nhiều quá lắm

Hàng cau già mo thương bẹ quắt queo

Anh nằm đếm những ngày rồi những tháng

Đi qua dần khi nước mắt buông theo


Kỉ niệm cũ vẫn còn nguyên vẹn đó

Trời tháng giêng, tháng bảy buồn như nhau

Gió vẫn thơm mùi hoa bưởi hoa ngâu

Rồi Tết đến, rồi lòng anh nhớ quá


Khi em về bước chân chừng xa lạ

Và cỏ hoa tất cả đã lắng im

Giấc ngủ ấy một đời anh ao ước

Từ máu mình hoài rứt khỏi đường tim


Em đừng khóc, đừng buồn, đừng nhìn nữa

Cứ cúi đầu rồi cứ thế ra đi

Trời sẽ tối, tiếc thương rồi sẽ hết

Và dấu giày mai sẽ lá sương che


By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

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

3 replies on “Nguyễn Đình Toàn | Upon your return(em) (5)”

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