from Bones will Crow

Various Burmese Poets

2010 the curvaceousness of burmese poetry, poetics and an unknown

the slice of bread buttered by moonlight on one side and pineapple jam on the other   yes! the dermatological problem   the shadows of the original stars   banking must be this efficient and that easy   as my urge to speak out spills over the petals are falling off in slow motion   (read it) window/ table/ tools   the hour hand travelling counterclockwise the umbrellas   the peasant bamboo hats   wheat as a replacement crop for poppy   'wow, cowrie shells!'   the limelight stalking him claims 'this is commissioner zhou enlai!' in one song   used papers carried off by a breeze into the streets   smiles at me and says 'i am still galloping'   in practice one has to be practical (even if one cannot be practically practical one must be practical)   meanwhile he crashes into the scene   the main actor has been wounded   this part is not in the script   he collapses   framed in gold   the golden picture of a golden beauty   i have been nagging away   i have been threatening   as i am saying 'don't you see?'   the phone card   the talisman hanging on my neck   the sword swiftly impales me from chest to back   nibbling on a potato chip i say 'yes, sir'   am i not subdued by the blade   am i not good for the blade   goose bumps all over   i kowtow just look after your goatee   mindfulness   just mindfulness will be useful for you all through the samsara   engraved on the spectacles case is Inmind   the filigreed teak partition   masking a pair of my ears with my palms   i am all ears   Facebook   appears on an elegantly straight bunch of hair drop by drop   the way the newborn greets the world at the top of his lungs   'U NGEE!'   how has he come up with   how tediously tolerant they are he only he was capable of penning such lines but ''Limits/ are what any of us/ are inside of ''

                                         24 September, 2010 Bangkok 19:57

Khin Aung Aye

Mr. Charley, I Have Picked You

Mr. Charley,
I have picked you.

Let me say it again!
Mr. Charley,
I have picked you.

Hey, you!
Mr. Charley, my picked one,
Most of this depends on you.
It was an opportune moment to pick,
Now I realise
Have picked too much too.

Many of us anticipated your pick,
Now I know better.

Mr. Charley,
You learnt to be a wheeler-dealer,
Before you knew how to pick.
Are not a trained witch,
You were a witch in the womb,
My knowledge of you
Has become metal chunks.

Mr. Charley,
Metal chunks are beyond flesh and blood.
I have picked
What you have picked
And what you have perfumed.
Let me make myself clear,
Mr. Charley,
I have picked you.

Maung Chaw Nwe

Lullaby for a Night

His smile flashes like a pocketknife.

In the very first nook of my extending right hand
Cultures are forged...

You have pretended not
To notice my pretensions.

How revolting it is
To be sexy and brassy...

My cracked canticles shiver.

Here you go...
The generosity of my dead sobs
Until the shoulders of the night give in

I will pretend not to notice
Your pretensions.


An Evening With a City Girl

Evening still swelters
In the strides inside
The miniskirt of the city girl.

We have just gazed leisurely at
The statue of the street-smart lion
Who has gobbled up a jouncing
fish and stepped on the fishtail.
What a phiz!

She is concerned
With not having a seat
With not getting discounts
With being stepped on
With not having concerns
With the insecurity of a snake
Who has just shed her skin.

As for me
A starving tiger
A jilted tiger
A lonely tiger
I want to bite off and
Devour my own stripes
I have to conceal the sound of
My waggling tail.

She is
Tempted by
The vertical lines.
She couldn't fan her senses out
Towards the endless fields.

I am
Sighing heavy-heartedly
At the stretch of the horizontal lines.
I couldn't look up.

The bootlegged breeze in the pirated river
Brushed past our authentic imaginations.
A queue over there arouses her curiousness.
I, for one, fancy catching the waves
Reflected upon the leftover sunlight.

She is educated.
She small-talks about
The prospects of natural resources,
The mutually-beneficial aspects of
Human resources in migration.

I am civilized.
I discuss by-the-way
The fluid localism of languages
The potential advantages of centralization.

The evening is at peace with herself
She has had a gulp of her beer
I have had a bite of my pizza>
We never happened to include in our conversation
Those gangsters in Southeast Asia.


translated from the Burmese by ko ko thett and James Byrne

'2010 the curvaceousness of burmese poetry, poetics and an unknown' and 'Mr. Charley, I Have Picked You!' were co-translated by ko ko thett and James Byrne; 'Lullaby for a Night' and 'An Evening With a City Girl' were translated by ko ko thett.

The recording of '2010 the curvaceousness of burmese poetry, poetics and an unknown' (Monday, June 27, 2011, 'Anti-Austerity Poetry' event, The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, London) is used with the kind permission of Htein Lin.

Bones will Crow: An Anthology of Fifteen Contemporary Burmese Poets
is due out in UK in 2012.