Now sitting behind barbed wire, hugging his knees / looking at the sky, the earth, the clouds / a bird’s wing like a far-fetched dream.
Translated by Phạm Thu Uyên
Tonight, surrounded by the walls of a prison,
there is a traveller who is hugging his sorrow.
Many years wandering the underworld
bringing misfortune to other beings
only to fall into the hands of law
one winter night, wrists in handcuffs.
All fantasies shattered:
Family, friends, dear lover,
freedom is far away.
Now sitting behind barbed wire, hugging his knees
looking at the sky, the earth, the clouds
a bird’s wing like a far-fetched dream.
Every day, counting the time,
tears a page off the calendar with stinging pain.
How many pages are left for an exile?
Day by day, an obscure yearning:
Mom, Dad, times when he was free.
Miss every cup of water, every bowl of rice
Recall parents’ scolding, the whip marks on skin.
Back then, he didn’t understand, was resentful.
Now that he does, the past is immensely far away.
Refused to hear parents’ advice,
argued against their words to rot in jail.
Wrote this poem hastily in the night,
sent back to his homeland to repent.
The underworld promises a life of adventure,
but in the hands of law, life withers, body burns
to the white bones.