Some Burmese Poems, Part 2 of 2
…a sample of poems written by young Burmese Poets
All poems translated into English by Maung Day
A Thi Nar (b. 1989)
A Thi Nar lives in Pyay, Bago Region, and she graduated from Dagon University, Yangon.
My Boyfriend and Cats
Head bashed in, guts falling out,
Pieces of limbs scattered in a puddle of blood,
And chunks of meat still dangling from her mouth,
The poor creature lay on the ground.
My boyfriend screamed and then he wept.
Since he was a six-year-old boy, he has always believed
People need to hate cats in order to love them.
When he was young, cats would jump onto him
Even though he anxiously tried to cover his body
With his two little hands.
He would cry when cats snatched fried fish from his plate.
He once said: “You know they are always trying to deceive you.
They will come to you timidly, and that’s a deception.
You must not fall for that.
Their eyes won’t be as innocent as you might have expected.
They will stare at you without blinking.
It means they are up to something.
Don’t allow them on your lap and don’t pet them.”
Some nights I went insane and he didn’t.
Whenever a cat made a meow that sounded like a crying baby,
My boyfriend’s flesh blew up into pieces and scattered away.
He wept thinking about witch cats that eat their young.
When he wept, I just looked at him
Praying I would never have a son with a morbid fear of cats.
At that exact moment, at our door,
On our furry carpet, on our sofa,
On our bed and in this world of cat-fearing people,
The pieces of fleshes from cats went scattering about.
My boyfriend became a cat and a cat became him.
They looked so identical like those doubles in the films
Produced by Twentieth Century Fox.
But I am not sure if the cat entered his body
Or he morphed into a cat.
Anyway, they became remarkable allies.
They jumped out of the window and ran away.
Nay Myo Set Lu (b. 1994)
Nay Myo Set Lu grew up in Dawei, Tanintharyi Region. His debut poetry collection Marketing was published in 2016. He currently lives and works in Yangon.
A girl puts on a black dress and looks in the mirror. She takes a quick selfie. She posts it on a social media website. And then she doesn’t know what to do.
We all have this problem: we don’t know what to do. For instance, people who work in offices don’t know what to do once they step outside their offices. Lovers don’t know what to do after they finish having sex.
I feel sorry for the girl in the black dress. She doesn’t know what to do after putting on the dress. If you don’t know what to do, it means you don’t know what to do. There isn’t much you can do about it. The girl throws herself on the sofa and puts her hand where she wants it.
The society has progressed. There aren’t spinning fans on the ceilings anymore. My mind spins like crazy. Old movie scenes flicker on my eyelids. A cat runs but not on piano keys.
The girl in the black dress puts on glasses with big round rims. She looks in the mirror. She wishes her hair were three or four inches longer. She wants it to be as long as that of the actress from a movie she saw. She wants to live as freely as the woman from a novel she read.
All these thoughts are reflected in the mirror, and these reflections are so intense they could sting people’s eyes.
The girl in the black dress gets on a train. She thinks about reading a book, but takes her phone out of the pocket instead. And then she doesn’t know what to do. This happens to people all the time, especially men.
If a woman experiences such moment again and again, it means that woman is wishing she were a man. At least that’s what the girl in the black dress thinks. She posts that thought on the social media website.
She takes off the black dress. I am not sure what kind of dress you see in your mind when you read about this black dress. For me, I see something short and tight — one that exposes thighs. So she undresses and looks in the mirror. The mirror is strangely large.
She thinks about taking a photo of herself, but decides against doing it. Her bra and panties are also black. She stands in front of the mirror for a long time.
Then she goes to the living room, pours herself a glass of wine (or whisky), lights a cigarette and stares out the window. All these things happen simultaneously.
She picks up her phone from the windowsill and takes a photo of herself staring out the window. She thinks about posting it on the social media website, but it doesn’t happen. The smoke from her cigarette wafts away in front of her eyes.
I don’t want to get up, so I stay in bed for two more hours. When I check my phone, I see many new emails. I reply them as fast as I can, but it takes a year to finish. Then I sit in front of my computer and join a web conference like in a Hollywood sci-fi film.
A year later, I buy a roast fish. But I forget about it because I am too busy. The fish comes back to life. I put it in an aquarium. Then I buy a bottle of liquor and invite friends to drink together. One of them keeps going on about something. I hit him with the liquor bottle.
One of my cats dies. I meet a woman during a train ride. She is wearing a black dress. We start talking and she asks about my work. I take off the condom and leave the hotel.
I start to drink every day. Knocking back glass after glass with a friend, I wait for the return of another friend from overseas. Years go by. My friend goes back to the country where he works.
That day, I am traveling on an express bus on the highway, apathetically watching the shitty film they are playing on the bus. A woman wearing a dress which is 80% black comes over to me. She asks: “Are you Nay Myo Set Lu?” I make the nod of a gangster. She then brandishes a gun that she has hidden on her thigh and shoots me several times. I say: “Thank you for everything, Kay Thi.”
I smile to myself thinking about the final scene from Wong Kar-Wai’s Days of Being Wild. The woman sees me smiling and asks: “Are you OK?” I reply: “All is well.” She asks me if I want to lay my head on her shoulder. I can feel the warmth as she wraps her arms around me.
On the highway, trees move backwards and the darkness settles in. But I know it for a fact, that her eyes will be gleaming in the dark. I tell her that I want to sleep a bit. She strokes my hair with her fingers.
Salai Myatnoe Thu (b. 1995)
Salai Myatnoe Thu was born and raised in Mindat, Chin State. His poems have widely appeared in local magazines and anthologies.
People sitting in the open pavilion are not talking about it
But it burns.
What’s burning what? Who’s burning whom?
What’s burning? Who’s burning?
It isn’t a forest fire, not a trash fire, not a burning cigarette,
Not a Molotov cocktail, not a burning candle, not an accidental fire.
But it burns, sir.
It burns poor quarters, it burns villas.
It burns streets, bars and hospitals.
It burns military outposts, buildings and everything else.
Legs, hands, heads and hair are on fire.
In villages and in cities, it burns and burns.
It burns the whole wide world.
It is a fire which isn’t a fire?
It devours everything it can.
It crawls like a snake and burns.
It glides like a bird and burns.
It swims like a fish and burns.
But people sitting in the pavilion are not talking about it.
I know you are confused but don’t worry.
I know you are confusing but don’t worry.
After all, you yourself are aflame.
Fresh Mushrooms from a Festival Market
The city is swarming with crows and foxes
Hanging about in their t-shirts and jeans.
The sun hasn’t risen yet for my optimistic self
And it hasn’t set for my pessimistic self.
It isn’t water that’s raining down on us.
It’s troubles and sighs.
Sitting in the theatre watching a play, I feel queasy.
The hand gestures of the actors are in complete chaos.
Are you implying we have no one to blame
When you say everything that has happened is nobody’s fault?
Well deep down, both you and I know whose fault it is.
We keep saying we are going eastward.
And we keep crossing paths in the west.
Happy or not, we keep singing songs, we keep weeping.
I don’t think our mothers wished it on us. The flying bullets, I mean.
Our brains should have grown much bigger.
These days, the wind carries the smell of money
Through the window in the evening light.
I wonder what our gift boxes will bring with them.
Good news or condolence messages?
Lawoon Yang (b. 1993)
Lawoon Yan grew up in Monywa, Sagaing Region. His poems have appeared in several poetry anthologies.
I got an email concerning my poems
From someone who doesn’t read my poems
The run-down zoo sneaks a look at my camera through the bushes
All the places I have to go before I finally go home
All the abandoned playgrounds I will be walking by
Winter arrives while I am making all kinds of gestures
The rollercoaster comes to a grinding halt under the summer sky
As the old echoes of joy meander about
The pirate’s got the words MISSING YOU tattooed on his back
The spacecraft gets itself an ice cream
And now it wants to go bowling
The whole area is sandbagged with people’s backpacks
The entire playground is dreadfully quiet
The Ferris wheel turns slowly making creaking sounds
And rust stains screech and walk across the ceiling of emptiness
In this emptiness, an ocean of noise emerges from our past
Smells take me back to where I was in the beginning
A hand grows from a cigarette that is almost done
And in the palm of the hand, a small chamber of broken deserts
Flowers bloom from the wrist
The body leaning against the wall is dark as tears
Words lose their colors
Hurry back to the previous decade
And stare down at the blue curtains
The plates spinning on the sticks in the juggler’s hands
To the floor
Khon Shine (b. 1996)
Khon Shine is a poet from Monywa, Sagaing Region. Together with Lawoon Yan and Insect, he published his poems in a collection called The First Snowfall in the Movie Theatre.
Spending Time at the Hospital
One holds a rose. Another sings a rap song.
Our eyes are filled with prayers.
We imitate the sound of trains and weeping.
The road to the hospital dons a thick robe of slimy tar.
We are hungry larvae biting each other’s lips.
She took liquid insecticide. Is now in the hospital.
Her ward has the same window, the same curtain
And the same view that I saw when I was here last year.
A life that wants to end jumps with fright, again.
My body temperature is uncompromising,
And I measure the width of my face with razor blades.
Our parents got those roses from a local market.
Her mother is holding them in her hand.
I have half a mind to put my earphones on her father.
We two dance to a rap song on the hospital floor all day long.
The First Snowfall in the Movie Theatre
I sing a song
Which illuminates the light bulb on the ceiling.
Last year’s panorama of grass
Couldn’t protect us from snow this year.
She looks happy when it starts snowing.
There are small holes in the walls
Which would suck in everything.
Elongated shadows move across the floor.
I love her laughter because it chimes lightly.
The cold feeling starts in the soles of my feet.
Then the sound of her laughter starts to tremble.
Then I realize the town is located in the path of earthquakes.
I write down the sentences
That I have left unfinished in my head.
She is entirely made of those
strands of hair.
There’s an eyeball in my soft drink
And it came flying out of her laughter.
I look at the ceiling
And continue singing song after song.
I also have to bring myself to tell the clouds to piss off.
Recorded conversations are lost.
Recorded news goes on and on
And stings my face.
I harvest the hair that floats.
Crops wash up on the shores of this year.
Bashful mountains hide behind fog.
Softly, I kiss the wall with my lips
On which pictures have been painted all over.
Cryptic upside-down lip pictures.
In the river tainted by orange-colored lies,
Water flows with numerous life jackets
Into the expansive waters of time.
One of us climbs a stupa
And another one shakes a bell secretly.
We feed our sins to the pigeons.
The dentist pulls out my aching tooth.
He is wearing a gas mask.
In this movie about a psycho killer,
I go to a late-night bar
And buy three or four more colors.
I am going to put these colors on my quilts just by myself.
Ma Thout (b. 1984)
Ma Thout is a poet and seaman based in Yangon. He has published two collections of poems.
I helped myself to the fruit
Ripening in someone else’s yard
I drank the liquor
Which was offered to a spirit
In a glass on a table
The stolen fruit was sweet
And the liquor intoxicated me
I didn’t know
How the fruit ripened on the tree
Nor did I know
Who filled the glass with liquor
I drank the liquor
I ate the fruit
I’ve never seen
In real life
I only know them
But I plan
To write a poem
People ask me
How it’s possible
To write about
Something I have
(They’ve never seen
Black roses either)
Written in one sentence
Is about black roses
Hidden from sight
On the dark side
Of the earth