Saturday, April 2, 2011

Burma Poem #3

You Say You Want a Saffron Revolution

In Burma
today, as I tasted my American morning
oatmeal in the comfort of my empty American
My friend Mana
the People dissolved
the military regime and elected
Thein Sein their democratic president.

What happened to Aung San Suu Kyi?
What happened to the Lady,
with flowers in her hair?

History spreads parallel away
like two hairs each from four buddhas,
independent and without intersection
in the folds of ascetic robes
worn by men with hands folded
in prayer, stretched glinting into the sky.
Such peaceful angry men,
crying for
liberation from suffering,
for sympathetic joy,
for equanimity of mind.

One hundred fifty years of instability,
of assassinations and displacement,
of ethnic cleansing and
charred jungle villages and men
who fire
into vined forests hoping to hit civilians,

the answer to these echoes of frailty
is some ambiguous cloud of democracy,
The American Way,
and a gathering of street monks?

“Do those people recognize what our country has done
for them?” my uncle asks.

Those people?

My friend Mana,
who craves inclusiveness and plurality
as if they were water,
Is he a those people?

My professor, Dr. Maung Maung Yin,
who studied in the Philippines
and at Oxford, and runs
an illegal liberal studies program,
Is he a those people?

That child who followed me begging, barefoot
through an agoraphobic labyrinth
of disjointed alleys smelling of cooked fish,
fried pork and egg noodles,
dragon fruit,
damp concrete
and the nauseating incense
of open sewer systems—
Is she a those people?

We are good, you are bad (or, at least, pity-worthy)—
the earth revolves on binary axis,
throwing its weight around, wobbling
unequally as it hurdles against the stars that grin,

like a boy with mussed black hair
at a marketplace patrolman carrying
a slack AK47,
and the officer smiling back with unequivocal

This is life. These
damn dissonant jazz chords.
All creation groans
with the birth of something new;

People with names are dying and people with
names are praying.

9,000 miles away the customers
at the same brown, patchy
pants, splattered and stained
with clay clip and glaze,
Didn’t he wear those

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