A Vietnamese Bidding Farewell to the Remains of an American
Was your plane on fire, or did you die
of bullet wounds, or fall down exhausted?
Just so you died in the forest, alone.
Only the two of us, a woodcutter and his wife,
dug this grave for you, burned joss sticks,
prayed for you to rest in peace.
How could we know there’d be such a meeting,
you and I, once separated by an ocean,
by the color of our skin, by language?
But destiny bound our lives together.
And today, by destiny’s grace,
you are finally going home.
I believe your American sky
is as blue as the sky above this country
where you’ve rested twenty years.
Is it too late to love each other?
Between us now, the ocean seems so small.
How close are our two continents.
I wish a tranquil heaven for your soul,
gemmed with twinkling stars and shining moon.
May you rest forever in the soil of your home.
[From the original Vietnamese poem by Tran Thi My Nhung, translated by Phan Thao Chi and adapted by W. D. Ehrhart.]