The day Khet Thi was tortured to death

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 

it bled.


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,’

I overheard. 


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. 

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