I Will Visit Your Home

I will visit your home and say
To your wife and children that you are hungry all year
round
That you have grown old, with most of your teeth gone,
but that you are very industrious
Working day and night to get your puny share of corn!
That you eat rice that is almost as hard as rock, out of
a stone bowl!
You try to swallow it but then, excrete the whole thing
almost as is
Your wife & children, nephews, nieces & grandchildren
Would be ecstatic learning
That you have progressed way beyond your past
Living under this regime, our Democratic Republic!

— Nguyen Chi Thien (1968)
(Trans. by Nguyen Ngoc Bich)

Headstone marking the resting place for the poet Nguyen Chi Thien at the Christ Cathedral in Orange County, California.Image: Codobai / CC BY-SA 3.0

Headstone marking the resting place for the poet Nguyen Chi Thien at the Christ Cathedral in Orange County, California.
Image: Codobai / CC BY-SA 3.0

Nguyen Chi Thien spent a total of 27 years in Vietnamese prisons and labor camps for opposing the Communist government. I Will Visit Your Home comes from Flowers of Hell, a collection of poems smuggled out of Vietnam via the British Embassy in 1979. Nguyen Chi Thien spent 12 more years in prison for this act of sedition.

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