Flowers and Soul

Source: Le, Han. “Trong Vuon Hoa Toi.” Vuon Tho. 2003. Web. 01 March 2018

Trong Vuon Hoa Toi (In My Garden)

Hoa từ đâu?

hoa từ đâu?

từ yêu hoa nở

từ sầu hoa phai

hoa của trời?

hoa của ai?

hoa là thánh nữ không ngai trên đời

yêu hoa

không thể ngắm chơi

cùng thơ, thở giữa đất trời với hoa

trải lòng

tôi vẽ em ra

xin bình tâm giữa chánh tà thế gian.


In My Garden

Flowers from where?

flowers from where?

from love they bloom

from sadness they wilt

sky’s flowers?

whose flowers?

flowers are the world’s goddesses without thrones

loving flowers

can’t be just for fun

with poetry, breath with flowers between heaven and earth

releasing my thought

I draw you out

begging for peace between the good and the bad in this world.


The context of this poem is very simple: the speaker is drawing the flowers in his garden, enjoying a brief peaceful moment in his life. The poem’s structure is Vietnamese “6-8,” one of the most casual poetic structure with repeating patterns of a part of 6 and 8-syllable lines, rhyming between the last word in the 6-syllable line and the 6th word in the 8-syllable. What is interesting about the poem is that the poet, in the first half of the poem, breaks down the 6 and 8 syllables into smaller pieces, creating enjambments to emphasize key phrases in the poem, such as the rhetorical questions. In addition, the unique arrangement of different Vietnamese language tones in each word gains this poem a pleasing sound to the ear. 

While my English translation fails to imitate the “6-8” structure, I was able to maintain the series rhetorical questions and perhaps the carefree voice of the poem. It is clear through the poem to see how much the speaker loves the flower; he even calls them “the world’s goddess without thrones.” The poem’s lack of punctuation makes the poem more loose and relaxing, yet that lack also makes us out of breath when reading it out loud, contradicting with the speaker’s desire to “breath with flowers between heaven and earth.” However, the contradiction doesn’t cease – it is surprising to find in such a relaxing tone a faint sadness of a person who wants to release his inner thought by “drawing you [flowers] out,” searching for his own moment of peace in the world. “from love they bloom/from sadness they wilt,” the flowers’ cycle in some ways connect with the speaker, who has undoubtedly been through ups and downs in life, and eventually, the speaker considers flowers as soulmates he can share his thought to, trading a moment of his life for a fleeting moment of complete peace. No more good things, no more bad things; what remain are the speaker and his flowers, man and nature in this mundane world. 

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