Dr. Đàm Trung Pháp
 Viên Linh is the pen name of Nguyễn Nam, born in 1938 in Hà Nam Province, North Vietnam. An accomplished poet and novelist, he has published numerous novels and poetic collections. His play Con Đường Ngựa Chạy brought him the 1972 Presidential Prize in Literature, and his novel Gió Thấp landed him the First Place in the Republic of Vietnam’s 1974 National Prizes in Literature and Arts. Among his best known poetic works are Hóa Thân (1964) and Thủy Mộ Quan (1982). Between 1961 and 1975, Viên Linh served as managing editor of several literary magazines in Saigon. Since his resettlement in the United States in 1975, he has earned his living as a newspaperman, a publisher, and currently as the editor and publisher of Khởi Hành, a literary review with an international readership.
 After April 1975, daring efforts by freedom-seeking Vietnamese people who took to the sea in decrepit boats were a great tragedy reported daily by the media, especially the Vietnamese-language press abroad. The most tragic aspect of this exodus was the starvation to death of children and the rape of women by sea pirates. By 1978, “boat people” had become well-known, and temporary refugee camps had been set up in various places in Southeast Asia. This poem is part of Viên Linh’s well-known work named Thủy Mộ Quan (The Pass of Graves in the Sea).
 That was when the Republic of Vietnam was established after the 1954 Geneva Agreement, with Saigon as its capital. It had a new flag and a new anthem, and more than 80 countries in the United Nations recognized it. In April of 1975, violating all signed agreements, communist North Vietnam overran this republic. As a result, more than 800,000 people from the South became boat people seeking freedom, and thousands of them drowned in the South China Sea.
 Lạc Hà (or Nại Hà) is the river of separation, spanned by a bridge. Crossing this bridge means entering the world of the dead.
 According to Vietnamese mythology, Từ Thức met a fairy named Giáng Hương and stayed with her in her world for a year. He became homesick and asked her to allow him a home visit, promising he would return. People and things back home had changed totally. An old man told him that Từ Thức was his grandfather who had disappeared 80 years earlier.
 The imaginary play horse for young boys in the old days was a long dried areca leaf that they dragged along the road, announcing their horse has arrived and asked people to feed it with grass.
 According to a legend, a young boy named “thằng bờm” had an areca-spathe fan. A rich man wanted to get it from him in exchange for expensive things, but to no avail. The boy finally agreed to just a handful of steamed rice. The story implies that the country people were realistic and not interested in vague promises.
 In Vietnamese paintings, a dragon has five claws in each foot. The Chinese dragon is painted with four claws in each foot.
 The bird “tinh vệ” and the lady named “Nữ Oa” in Chinese mythology were the symbols for people with tremendous determination and perseverance.