You gave birth to me while being destitute:

Potato or cassava doubling rice each meal to suit.

Salted egg-plants and peanuts since childhood,

I had got accustomed to the poor people’s food.


The crabs from the paddy-fields that you fried,

The goby from inundation that you cooked dried,

The chunks of taro you prepared with rousong,

The sundry veg…, that with my youth got along.                                         


The sweet potato buds, with prawns as spices,

The soured shrimps, with bamboo shoot slices,

The grilled pancakes smelling jackfruit, thyme,

The familiar dishes… I remember all my lifetime.


On stormy days, on the salver were boiled eggs;

In summer, water spinach for broth without dregs;

A bit of pickle was enough for a quick repast…

But you Mama always remained alone the last.


Regals are rich, their cats have delicacies to try;

I was Mama’s cat, only meagre dishes did satisfy.

So content with my lot that feasts I did not enjoy,

Indifferent, seeming kittle as a too coshered boy.


Well, now that I have been a hemisphere away,

I do not know when I will come back and stay

There, on the straw fire under smoke you stoop

To cook with anchovies the eve tamarind soup.


So that warmth is added to my empty existence:

Such bliss will appease my heart in this distance,

With the cooking smelling the new harvest rice,

And for me a crisp piece of burned rice as a price.


As a lost young child lonely in a strange land,

Being whirled along means of living’s demand,

I feel so anxious for Mama against the door-case

Or by the food tray always longing to see my face.  


Translation by Thanh-Thanh