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.