Mirror with a Stutter
from Trojan Horsemeat
Aung Khin Myint
“I fancy Trojan horsemeat.” There goes my wife’s craving. She continues, “Look, I know what you’re going to say. Tell you what. Horsemeat is sweet. It’s full of nutrients. If necessary, on horsemeat, you can run away from your past as fast & as far as possible. Take note! Trickeries are also sweet. Oh . . . & that’s not all. Eating a horse is like eating all the miles that beast of burden has travelled.” I am gazing at the enormous Trojan Horse from a distance. The soldiers hiding in the underbelly of the Horse all look Greek to me. I know the soldiers are watching us through the Horse’s eyes. On one occasion, in the middle of the night, the Trojan Horse neighed & neighed. We were all roused from bed. Sleep was no longer possible. Humans have eaten horsemeat throughout history—during famines, or when people go mental, or when a horse owner doesn’t want to see his horse age & die a natural death, et cetera. Horses are supremely durable. No matter what, through a blizzard or sandstorm, they always head home. All they see is their homely stable. How magnificent is equine anatomy! Their strong muscles, their expressive eyes, their gracious yet poignant manes flowing in the wind! You must have seen horse sketches by Leonardo da Vinci. Awesome mammals! & yet horses have sometimes met with the kind of death they didn’t deserve. The head of a horse decapitated with a single swipe of a sword will roll ten feet from its body. Now imagine the torso of a horse split in two. Sometimes a horse is gutted to become a hollowed-out horse. These incidents are quite isolated. Normally, a horse will be at peace, drinking from a free-flowing creek. Life too will keep flowing. Once in a while, a wayward breeze might intervene. One day, we will have to do business with horses. It’s inevitable. A Trojan Horse will enter our conscience at the least expected moment. One thing is certain: Trojan horsemeat is ambrosial.
Another Holy Name for Cold
Another holy name for Cold is Undertaker. Also known as Pig Hair Comb. It’s not Snow as you thought. Naming is not that easy. Sometimes you have to consult a nat spirit for a good name. You need to stay in touch with the dead. What names are popular in the afterlife which is hidden from us? For instance, can a man be named Frozen Milk? Why? Because that phrase has been stuck in my head for a long time. It won’t leave me alone ever since the national uprising. Once upon a time we had to queue up at the apiary for cow milk. Milk was rationed. I used to line up milk bottles in the fridge. Since when has Cold entered my consciousness? The person who took his gloves off to shake my hand with his icy hand was the Emissary of Cold. His sled dogs will tell you all the other noms de guerre for Cold. Keep them to yourself. His other names are Revolution, Dog’s Piss Plant, Pimp, Velve, & Maung Pauk Kyaing. The same Maung Pauk Kyaing who crafted one of his lovers’ collarbones into a hairpin. It’s him, Cold! He buried his lover under a howling, frosty gust. Under the mango tree in his own backyard. An old tire was placed over her grave mound. That was it. No fuss whatsoever! What’s so strange about that? Films are full of scenes like that. The mind always seeks a cold place. Hands, trunks, & antennae always fumble for cold spots. He is sleepless. He lights a cigarette & inhales all the smoke into his lungs. Survival is yet another holy name for Cold.
Going to the Origin
To go to the Origin, you have drawn a circle in the air. The circle you have drawn is not quite a circle. Before you left home you snuck a kiss on the cheeks of your au pair. Your wife was on the phone. If you cannot distinguish between “Going to the Origin” & “Going Back to the Origin,” a horse will become a whip. No need to follow the teargas canister jiggling from your feet to another’s on the street. At least once in your life, you will have accidently kicked your cat. This accident might lead you to the Origin? Who knows? To go to the Origin, he poked his eyes out with a stick. He wasn’t really sure if it was necessary to blind himself. Perhaps, like the camera at the airport immigration desk, he had grown tired of human faces? Are the sadus standing on one leg in the River Ganges on their way to the Origin? The seamstress, before leaving for the Origin, had a heart tattooed on her haunches. After that, carrying a dabba, she hurried to the bus stop. Night time is not the right time to go to the Origin. Is it drizzling now at the Origin? To go to the Origin, flowers have had their way with the pitch-black wind. Before that, Paul Celan had plunged into a frozen river. Jan Palach had set himself on fire. Take it easy. The wind will mind her own business. Before arriving at the Origin, tears will dry up. Perhaps tears will congeal like wax dripping from a candle. The metropolis you have grown up in is horsing around on the road paved with bones. Is it that difficult to go to the Origin? Glad hands sticking out of train windows have existed in all previous ages. Some people have returned. Some others haven’t. Birthplace doesn’t necessarily mean the Origin. If we must, we will go to the Origin through a crack in the wall of our house. Will you go to that Origin? Or will I? You & I have swapped lives. You & I have swapped wives also. The mole on the right breast of his wife always makes me think of the Origin. On the way to the Origin are people sitting on a bench in a public garden? They enjoy watching their dogs sniffing each other’s arses. Sooner or later they will laugh out loud in front of a mirror. Later they will break down in tears.
To go to the Origin, he is tugging at the Lord Buddha’s robe like an infant. To go to the Origin, ashes are up before the break of dawn. I haven’t even started a campfire. After putting on makeup, they put plasters on their belly buttons. Those ashen ashes in the wind who tend to have motion sickness!
Mirror with a Stutter
Words rose in the mouth. Like prisoners banging on iron bars, they couldn’t get out. The mirror had a stutter & we failed to identify ourselves. The mirror had a stammer & we missed all our appointments. Even dharma is ensnared in the mirror. So are the unborn. So are the coal miners—the lights on their hard hats still shining. So are Her Majesty’s sadness, sunrays eclipsed by the sun, & undercover smiles of evil. Like dew on a window glass on a chilly night, sweat beads on the mirror. The mirror & the window glass don’t share the same meaning. They don’t have the same backdrop. Individually or in a flock, pigeons will fly into the mirror. If not pigeons, the unemployed & the lower classes. They try to body-tackle the mirror. I look at my own image having sex with my wife in the mirror. Doggy-style, I look into the mirror. Wagging his tail, the Emperor also looks into the mirror. When the Emperor throws pigeon feed into the air, pigeons in the mirror are roused into a roaring flight. The mirror blackens. The story of the mirror is the story of the loofah—the story of the Gordian knot. What is being said now is a douchebag. In one shape or another, the douchebag will be found in a mouth, in a memory, in a regret, or in an enlightenment. Are these all lies? The sun rests his chin on a crack of the mirror. The surface of the lake, the colour of shrimp oil, is still. A still that doesn’t suit life. The mirror blackens. The breeze grows into a gust. In the darkening mirror, I can see the lime-washed pagoda on a hilltop we never happened to visit. How melancholic! The mirror moves her lips as though she had something to say. As though she were opening up. Don’t worry. The mirror has no idea that truths we’ve slaughtered are buried inside her. To cure the stutter, I hypnotize the mirror. Just before that, I saw the back of the Buddha walking to the mirror.
translated from the Burmese by ko ko thett