after Lou Reed
I dreamed –
I was the poet laureate of Naypyitaw,
the Abode of Generals.
The Generalissimo was a poet too.
So was the Generalissimo’s
American cocker spaniel.
To exorcise the woes in me
I took the wok pan
I used to cook kanzunywak for supper,
I smacked it so hard
Against a monsoon gust
we were in a national spitting contest.
No matter how hard we spat
the gale always spat right back
into our faces.
Just like in Akhmatova’s Russia,
people learned to speak Whisper.
Even in Whisper, they murmured.
‘Combat drones will exterminate
hornbills in the Chin Hills,’
We were Gormley’s men
on a sinking shore. Each of us
in our own way, began to look out
to the west, between 247-degree west
and 245-degree west.
I woke up to find Khet Thi
between me and my other half in our bed.
It wasn’t Khet Thi.
It was Khet Thi’s disembowelled body.
Khet Thi’s death wasn’t wasted.
Life, even under tyranny, was
meaningful, purposeful and beautiful.
It wasn’t at all what
everyone imagined –
full of pain, peril and paranoia,
saboteurs and sycophants.
Author’s note: Khet Thi (1976–2021) is one of the household names in contemporary Burmese poetry. On 8 May 2021, he was snatched by security forces in Shwebo, Myanmar. The following morning, his body, internal organs missing, was returned to the mortuary in Monywa, near Shwebo.
Written in Burmese and translated into English by the author.