Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

My Mother's Sister

My Mother's Sister

By Nguyen Huu Ha

Simple and countrified as she has always been,
my aunt returns to attend my daughter's wedding.
If she didn't come, she wouldn't have been happy
and yet, being here, she worries that her brown farmer clothing is inadequate.

She wobbles carrying her gift of rice on her side.
Her gait is like my mother's used to be so long ago.
The carpet is soft, and she moves unsteadily
as if she is wading through a pond to climb onto its bank.

My grandma wore the headscarf of a hardworking laborer.
She passed it down to my mother, and now my aunt wears it.
As my aunt stands before the altar of my ancestors where the incense smoke swirls,
I hear my mother calling softly for me.

Oh Auntie, don't be so sad!
On such a happy day, why these tears?

Translated by Thieu Khanh, Nguyen Phan Que Mai, and Kwame Dawes


Nguyen Huu Ha

Born in 1946 in Vĩnh Phúc Province, Nguyen Huu Ha is the author of six poetry collections: Silent Space (1989), Song for Seasonal Change (1991), The Jumbled Afternoon (2003), The River of My Life (2005), Words for You (2008), and Autumn Without Fallen Leaves (2011). Nguyen Huu Ha is also the author of a book of short stories entitled Clear Crystal (1980). After graduating from the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, Nguyen Huu Ha served in the Vietnam-American War as a weapons engineer. He is now working at the Film Studio of the Vietnam Writers' Association.

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