To my dear father on his visit

             to his descendents in the United States



I arrived in San Francisco at noon

On a day dark similar to nightfall.

The slopes hazed far above with fog;

People crowded like in a festive mall.


The distant sea surface was dim;

the petrels inclined their wings still;

the sails glided past one after another;

the breeze brought a breath of chill.


From this side of the straits,

I looked at the other along each span

and felt as if the suspended bridge

still retained the spirit of a gone man.


Oh, Strauss*, the old engineer!

Your heart and mind being so sublime

with marvelous lines in your design

have and will still live through time.


I got to San Francisco on the winding

and sloping streets with pleasure;

Like the transversely crawling crabs,

the line of vehicles rounded at leasure.


Going downwards then back upwards

around in four and each way trend,

the horizontal and vertical roads

drifted up and down as if waves bend.


The rows of houses one upon another

heaping up round the mountain side:

whose hands were so skillful to create?

what masterpiece did nature to us confide?


I entered San Francisco City

feeling tears in my eyes suddenly start;

I gazed far over the Pacific Ocean

and suffered pain in my deep heart...



   Vietnamese poem by SONG NHỊ

   English translation by thanh-thanh


*Joseph B. Strauss, the engineer who designed and built

the Golden Gate Bridge in California, USA.