Mai Văn Phấn's poems, translated by Võ Thị Như Mai

Mai Văn Phấn

English version by Võ Thị Như Mai



Võ Thị Như Mai, poet, translator




A Drink on New Year’s Eve



Shining on me

Their brightness


A sip for you

Listening to a pop

At root end and branch top



Turning into a seed

Sipping pure dew




Ripe Fruit


Breathing in slowly

Spring heels


Young fruits around here

But calling their souls from everywhere


Birds song

Lead by different types of weather


On the sharp tongue

In the arms of waves


The slower you eat

The better flavour you taste




Spring Breeze



Pebbles can fly


Breeze always whispers

About the dream of clouds


Calling the swallow

To cruise out as a model






Smell delicious

Freshly out of the oven


Chew slowly

Bells ringing steadily



The sole

Looking up

Clouds drifting by


Shining down on

Mother’s gentle breast






Those in quarantine

In the garden



Casting by thought

Not bait

Nor a hook


Can’t be bothered catching

Multiple wriggled fish

Under the grass


Wait till midnight

A big fish

Splutter out of a dream





Earth is a maternity ward

The first cry of a newborn transmitted to natural space through lines

of code …


That night, season freshly started

Softly he gave her a swift kiss through the canopy

When a dewdrop melting in the lush green branch


Loneliness sweeping through midday hot and dry

Trembled leaves falling from season passing by

Fierce and yet as gentle as a breeze

The breeze from seafoam the shade of sky


Dawn arisen brightening half your life

The other half has merged into darkness

Lawn along the paths hastily greenish

Left some trace of its colour on his shoes


Ocean wave on top of the tree whispering outside each veranda

Time will hurriedly pass as the ship sailing away

When each of us is a leaf everyday

Then rooftops and bamboo groves are around our house


Earth is a maternity ward

The first cry of a newborn transmitted to natural space through lines

of code …





A Thunderbolt Under His Balanced Foot



He lifted his foot

The other foot

was about to land


Out of the blue the silvereye breathing

And tough mother tree’s roots

Spreading out to protect their seedlings


Fully aware of not being able to fly

Unable to lift off the ground

He kept the same position


Wind, please don’t blow hastily

Flock of brown sparrows, please slow down

Calm river out there with no sound


How to keep balance as a whole

So anchovies could avoid brackish water

Hay and rice straw from first season to be dried faster.





Tucked The Wings



On looking out of the plane window

Through eyes of an eagle


His thoughts spreading out against the sky

His visionary wings


Dipping in the wind

Past the clouds

Above mountaintops

The meadows are minimal


Passing border gate

screened carefully by border force officer

Nothing different was found


He was not aware of

Where his wings

were tucked.





White-Breasted Waterhen in The Lake


Bird reflection in water

Was it swimming

Or drifting in the wind

Gracefully and leisurely


White -breasted waterhen

With its nature

Sketches scenic lines


Under thin layers of clouds

lakebed shimmering

imperial city

and ruins


He stopped at the lake

Looking closer to each sketching line

The waterhen flew away

Left behind the image still wet on the lake.










Start the new year

By writing to brighten the dark



Reigns vision


The finest gem

Is set in my heart


Dawn awaiting

To rewrite words of previous night.






Fall hesitantly comes

immature rice kernels in the mist


Silky outfit and wrap cuddling skin

Gliding autumn cold breeze to the air


The excited pounding rhythm in harvest season

Baskets and sieve sifting yellow husks from rice


Refreshing grapefruit in hot and dry sunshine

Sweet scented Osmanthus with its pureness


A petal of lotus flower after rain shining

Yearning deeply for enlightenment and rebirth


Green lotus leaves wrapping fresh Cốm

And our love deep in summer skyline


Two souls shone in affection of utmost silence

Cốm’s aroma in the air of persimmon ripen.




In memory of John Wilfred Harper Fullerton Dickie, Father of Poet Susan Blanshard.


You blissfully pass away in peace

while morning dew is glistening

Along the wall poppies shine bright red.


We cry the cries weeping sound,

not hearing the curtains fluttering in the breeze

nor the dried nuts falling from the trees.


And there is a minute of silence.

We hear your footsteps on the road,

shifting pebbles.


You then cross many lakes,

past the fields of wheat, canola and lavender

far above the thatched roof houses.


So we are able to behold

your eternally beautiful place of warmth and comfort

where the sun gathers its light.


Hải Phòng, 11 August, 2017


(English version by Võ Thị Như Mai. Edited by Susan Blanshard)









the soil swells

the river flows


waterfront from this side

is the same as the other





depend upon water

shine in water


breathe a sigh



castles in air


the path

though unseen

let’s follow the river

to where we are keen





unwilling footsteps

have blurred each line

which whom had drawn?

and when, who knows?


Inside or out

the zone once marked



many return

after crossing the boundary

bring back such dreadful story


or unable to decode?


this almost tragic consternation

only a moment ago

barely remains haunted

like nothing to show





a day has gone

little has been done


neatly lay the farming tools

and bundles of baskets

in the kitchen corner


fill the dried lamp wick

with liquid fuel

to place on the shrine



speak in whispers to the deceased

treasured those memories 

of poverty

and humbleness

though set strong will


till in the dawn dream wish to be a caterpillar

mistaken poison as food

a butterfly





each generation

has its own apprehension


a question happens to be learned

“wouldn’t many generations be under the same roof?”


faded into the shuffling crowd

this morning

individually rush


to find a way out





the friendly neighbour

peeks through his window

“to the café, will you?”


“sorry, I can’t.”

tired of such usual place

the unchanged tale and face


cautiously scans around

softly he mutters

“in my last night dream

people vanishing

out that walkway - dim”


bring back to my mind

in contemplation

exactly how I vision


speechless, without motion

on our window bars, we lean

till noon





birds in their cage

unaware of soon to engage




to peck seeds

surround the thin trough

no space to exceed


neither remember to chirp

nor to fear


gently lift the tiny door

with positive thoughts

I hear myself sing

a song of bird chirping





laying on the grass I feel

an eagle inside me

so real


spread the wings to take off

closing my eyes to feel the warmth and soft


of my motherland

with bloodstream soaking

once bones scattering

from those lost souls


lift up my eyes

high and deep

to the blue sky

Perth, Australia 19/5/2017







Vo Thi Nhu Mai was born in Dalat, Lam Dong in 1976. She worked as a high school English teacher in Ba Ria Vung Tau for 5 years. She then moved to Australia to complete Graduate Diploma in Primary Teaching, then Master Degree in literacy. She has been working as a primary school teacher from 2004 till present in Western Australia. Vo Thi Nhu Mai is a poet whose publication in Vietnamese including Tan man (Scattered, 2009); Ben kia tit tap dai duong (On the Other Side of the Far Away Ocean, poetry, 2011); Vuon co tich (The Fairy Garden, poetry, 2015); Tu tuyet Covid – 19 of Vo Que (The Quatrains of Covid – 19, English version by Vo Thi Nhu Mai, 2020). A collection of English poems from some Vietnamese authors with her English version will be published this year, 2021.





Võ Thị Như Mai, poet, translator












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