A Farewell to Burma

Lingering like a stubborn cloud diffused

Several days over in Mandalay,

Indignant with the injustice of diluted Freedom whisky

Just sold to me wholesale from underneath this rooftop bar

Uncannily reminiscent of a 1984 Victory gin;

Of proles toiling in the sun for their Chinese masters

Under red hot billboards advertising Democracy coffee,

A rainy season yet to come.

Pagodas erected in the business of atonement

For unspeakable massacres that never took place on paper

Like forced prison labor employed

To rebuild Thibaw’s old Palace moat

Overflowing with unscrupulous foreigner dollars.

Ruins of civilian Burmans miraculously still alive

Having dared to crack jokes at the government’s expense

Hustling tourists just to break even on loans from usurious capitalists.

O Maung Maung with whom I shared a cup of tea,

Benefiting from your defiance of propriety in blaspheming

The dictatorship’s false appeals to Gautama Buddha

And that classic aside about pussy curry,

No chewers of betel perhaps but adulterers

Sharing the last cigarette—

As inordinately familiar as we are with

The impermanence of truly human moments in which

Our dharma mingles in serendipitous mutualism,

Negating further fraudulent pretenses

Frees us from this uncomfortable delusion

Society perpetuates like an overcast sky

Only penniless soothsayers can afford to contradict.