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My Aunt Hà

My Aunt Hà

By Lu Thi Mai

When I was born, my aunt no longer lived;
yet she returned often in the dreams of my parents.
She smiled at me sadly and looked at me lovingly.
When she was twelve,
bombs were dumped onto our village school.
Her new lilac-colored shirt was torn to shreds.
My family said goodbye to her and to a hundred others.

When I was born, my aunt no longer lived;
people believed she was reincarnated in my body
and in the smiles budding like flowers on my lips.
Her friend who was lucky enough to escape death
said my aunt was smiling just before the bombs,
happy at the perfect score she had just received
for learning by heart the song of hope—
the song about the blueness of the sky,
the song about doves taking flight.

When I was born, my aunt no longer lived.
Now, even her grave no longer exists.
It was swept away by a surging storm some years ago.
Yet she returns often in dreams.
She doesn't cry as the living do;
she says that where she is the sunlight warms her
and peace settles on the tips of cỏ tranh1 grass.
She looks at me and praises the young woman I have become.

My father sees in the clusters of the wild grass,
the reawakening of my dear aunt's happiness.


1A type of grass grown in the wild, known as blady grass, cogon grass, or Japanese bloodgrass. The common Vietnamese people use cỏ tranh as a herbal medicine; its healing powers cure a range of illnesses.

Translated by Nguyen Phan Que Mai and Kwame Dawes


Lu Thi Mai

Born in 1988 in Thanh Hóa Province, Lu Thi Mai has a Bachelor of Creative Writing and Journalism degree from the Hanoi University of Culture. She is the author of  the poetry collection Giấc (Slumber), published in 2009. Lu Thi Mai's poems and short stories have appeared in prestigious literary newspapers and magazines of Vietnam such as the Literature Magazine as well as the People's Newspaper. In 2009, 2011, and 2013, her poems were selected for performances at the Temple of Literature on the occasion of the Vietnam National Poetry Day. She has received an Award for Creative Performance from the Vietnam Writers' Association.

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