the-trio-final2

Illustration by Arpan Roy

THE WHEELS KEPT ON SPINNING AFTER THE BIKE’S FALL

 

Everything you’ve heard

Must be about me.

 

When butchering,

A different stroke for a different meat—

This much I know.

Must make sure the butchered flesh

Doesn’t sway side to side

As it dangles from the hook.

 

Quick! Pull up

The sun that’s about to set,

And thrown on the watermelon

The tattoo that you’re about to put on your arm.

 

It’s as if we’re at the shoreline,

As if the waves

Are touching our toes.

 

In the brief moment

Before the flipped fried egg

Fell back into the pan,

I was permitted to see your smile.

 

Don’t tell me everyone’s still worried

About what I wrote on the garage wall.

Can’t you see the callouses

Bulging beneath my shirt?

 

They’re cutting wood in a rhythm, to a drum beat.

My worst fear is splinters getting into my eyes.

I shield my face with outstretched fingers

And watch out for the splinters through them,

Like I’m watching a horror film.

 

The stars on my floors—

Who drew them?

How do I erase them?

If I cannot wipe them off, I’ll just draw

Many more stars.

(Translated from the Burmese by Kenneth Wong)

YANGON – 2

 

A navy blue police van

Catches up with the bus I’m taking.

 

A detainee with a cell phone

Looks at me and bellows…

 

One more, one more passenger

One more to Insein”.

(Translation from the Burmese by Nyein Nyein Pyae)

 *Translator’s Note: In Yangon there are 12-seater minibuses that run only when they are full. Insein township in northern Yangon is home to Insein Prison or “Insein”, the biggest correctional facility in Burma.

 

THE SCENT OF HUMANITY OPENS AUTOMATIC DOORS

 

Only three wheels are spinning.

Not sure what the symbol meant

But the script was beautiful

So I decided to get it tattooed.

 

The poet Nawaday was stunned

By my poetry on Facebook.

 

Have no fear!

I’m on the way.

 

Touched it with his fingertip, licked it,

Then the police declared:

There’s human blood in it.

 

I met the jasmine seller;

I sensed she didn’t sell too many.

So I bought a strand.

Is it alright to offer flowers at night?

I asked for no good reason.

Of course you can.

 

Those who play musical instruments

Can better understand horses.

 

I’m afraid my cat might see

The cat sticking his head out of the car window.

 

Only I could sign

My report card.

 

How many rivers are in Burma?

 

You must tell me we’re all the same.

Our hands shake like an earthquake.

Our legs have gone deaf.

You saw us coming from.

 

The inability to show dissatisfaction is

Part of the reason I’m dressed up in this outfit.

 

The car tires gave the mud permission to be free.

 

I have the answer;

I just haven’t told you yet.

You won’t find it useful if I give it to you too soon.

That’s why I was holding off.

Don’t look down on me.

You can’t say America doesn’t exist just because you haven’t seen it.

I can speak nonsense just like you do.

But there must be one among you

Who holds me dearly.

I keep rubbing my phone quietly, always keeping my head down,

My earphones always cover my face,

The hat attached to my shirt is always on my head.

Don’t look at me like that.

 

The parking lot is filled with cars.

One of them has begun to move.
(Translated from the Burmese by Kenneth Wong)

 

About the Poet

facebook_1473048466392Han Lynn (b-1986) is a poet and translator from Burma. Being the author of three poetry collections, he translates international poetry into Burmese. His poems have been featured in local and international periodicals and anthologies, translated into English and Bengali. In 2015 he completed poet-residency of Sylt foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa, and took part in Litfest International Literary Festival in Harare, Zimbabwe. In 2016 he, with his three poet friends, founded Be Untexed, Burma-based electronic journal publishing new writings and visual arts from any part of the world. He took part in ASEAN Poets Forum & ASEAN Poetry Recital (2016) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

About the Translator

kenneth-300x300Kenneth Wong is a Burmese-American writer, blogger, and translator. His stories, essays, and translations have appeared in San Francisco Chronicle, Grain, AGNI, Myanmar Times, The Irrawaddy, and Eleven Eleven, among others. He teaches a course on Burmese language at UC Berkeley.

(Photography – Elizabeth Kimble)