The sun is shining.
Oh cosmos, how I yearn to embrace you in my arms.
Birds are singing.
A woman is selling breakfast passes by the bamboo grove.
O homeland, how I yearn to embrace you in my arms.
People are gathering at the marketplace.
O world, how I yearn to embrace you in my arms.
Only twenty more hours, yet already I am not here.
I will give myself to Fire.
The sun is shining. O homeland, O world, O cosmos!
All is beauty unsurpassed.
Separation will be unbearable,
my love immeasurable.
So many memories-
yet I will not be able to take with me
even a single leaf or pebble.
Each leaf is so precious; each pebble oh so precious.
Waking up early, I have slept soundly,
like an innocent child with no worries.
My hands is it your duty to call Fire home this morning?
My hands caress my cheeks.
My hands, you are loyal friends,
hands for handing out candies and cookies,
hands that are smudged with ink and chalk,
hands for weaving silk,
hands for smoothing the heads of orphans.
Waking up early, oh how I want to live forever!
Each rose-colored morning,
each new morning begins a full day
like a blank sheet of paper
ready to be filled with meaning.
Why is the cosmos so beautiful today?
Is it because I am about to die?
Or because I have opened my eyes?
Oh the many stars, so far away!
Waking up early, aware of my face, my hands,
and this small basin of water.
How I yearn to swim in that crystal clear water,
to be a tiny fish!
Waking up early,
my windows open to the pristine air,
how I yearn to fly up in it,
to be a little bird!
Waking up early,
I see a group of schoolchildren crossing the street
chirping like birds.
Walk forth, my little brothers and sisters.
Walk forth toward the peaceful, safe horizon
where there is no suffering, no killing!
Here I plunge into the pit of bloody fire.
Go forth quickly, my dear ones.
Here the rocky hills, the mountains and forests,
are all doing their best to stop the bloody fire!
Far ahead, an elder sister or brother will be waiting for you.
Your classroom will be visited
by a wandering bird or butterfly.
Your classroom will be pervaded
by the delicious, soft fragrance of a rose vine
climbing up the windowsill.
Cookies and candies will be passed under the tables.
Elder brother knows, but he still smiles.
Elder sister knows, but pretends not to.
The writing assignment is being read in the southern dialect.
Mistakes with accents count only half a point.
I adore these silken-haired heads and bright eyes-
even the ink smears on the shirts and faces,
and the runny noses.
The streets are crowded with people.
What are you thinking of, Aunt?
What are you thinking of, Uncle?
What are you worrying about, Elder Brother?
What are you worrying about, Elder Sister?
Each one has a different worry,
each person a particular situation.
Everyone is going about doing their own morning errands.
I walk alone,
my feet on the ground,
but I feel I am walking on air.
I am still here, but already I have gone.
Twenty hours left.
I did not share with anyone my deepest thoughts.
I am not lonely.
O friends, O human race,
O Brothers and Sisters,
I love this Earth of ours,
Tears flowing down my face.
I bend my head and wipe them away.
I smile, chastising myself.
I feel ashamed because I still love.
I am still attached, and I want to stay.
Alone, I go.
O friends, please let me go.
Don't be angry.
Please don't come too close,
Keep your distance so I can fulfill my vow.
I yearn to embrace each of you,
young and old, and to have a good cry.
But that would ruin everything.
Our tears would erode
all the determination I have mustered.
Forgive me, my friends.
Forgive me, my darling brothers and sisters.
Remember the story of the river.
Let me be the boatman
Let me hear the blue waves talking each morning.
Let me see Ong Lanh Bridge,
the small boats carrying bright red clay pots and pans,
others carrying vats of fish sauce,
I see the women selling areca nuts,
their lips red from chewing betel,
their hair covered with striped cloths.
Our homeland is beautiful, oh so beautiful.
There is the temple, the bamboo grove,
the areca garden, the hedge of betel,
and the familiar river port.
I want to turn back.
Bet even if I turn back, I cannot find my homeland!
I am touching the soil of my homeland with each step.
The soil of my homeland has been devastated
by bombs and gunfire.
Here is a prayer for those green gardens,
with bamboo and plum blossoms,
with cactus plants in the front courtyards.
Joining my palms,
I accept the flames as a prayer.
Allow me to see the houses for the last time.
Allow me to see the sky, the water, the trees for the last time.
Allow me to see the stars and the moon.
Allow me to see the people-
aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters,
young and old.
Let me see them laughing and talking.
I embrace all in the small circle of my two arms.
I have seen you, my fellow brothers and sisters,
I am going, but I am still here.
Tomorrow as the sun rises,
my poetry will reach my beloved ones.