Hills of Myanmar

Dimples in the Sludge
& other poems

Appeal to a Myanmar Girl

Even emptiness is obscured from view
Here in no room within which barely
Saying hello before saddled with goodbyes
Nobody really exists—that may be true—
But why does that go especially for me?
From where I muse on you in loneliness
Just another one of those infinitely reoccurring dots
Enchanted by your resplendence but
Fighting to tame your wild thusness
I’m forced to concede to what is outside myself
Being I signifies such pointless points on a vast plain.
How else to penetrate into your beauteous form—
Obstructed by the forces of stasis
Desiring only to know the long history of your ceaselessness—
Succumbed to admiration of what is eternal in you;
Sunk in innumerable folds of an abstraction.
Rhetorical poetics as bound up with the linguistic
As the symbolic is to the universality of Donne’s flea,
The Ayeyarwaddy neither comes nor goes
But rather persists in perpetual mutability.
So too by virtue of having already begun
Already we’ve commenced in separating,
Whether I stay with you or remain in flux.
Trying not to try and simply trying are the same.
If we loved, truly then, we truly loved.
For however brief a moment those who are meant to
Do. The alternative is to go on faking for eternity.
Manifesting progress in precisely conservative ways.
Tyrannically orchestrating harmony out of that
Fear of passing away which soils thusness
And creates the droning cinema we must pretend
To enjoy as the architects of appearances.


Elliott Smith on repeat,
Coffee cup of scotch.
Baby gecko crawling on the ceiling,
Nostalgic for the darkest times
Spent apart in Shaanxi, that bleak apartment
With month old blood on its bathroom walls
At least then, come October you were in
my arms, hovering above the spiral
Staircase at the Orange Hotel,
Overarching space for a time that
I remember looking down.

On the Train to Yinchuan

I’ll be trapped in Beijing with ripped pants and soiled socks,
soap caked in my hair,
yet with memories of the New Year,
an old man dancing baijiu drunk.
Exploding our dreams in the dark
alleyway sky,
a fluorescent orgy of signs
sits regularly above the city.
I return to Yinchuan,
unsure if a lady waits.

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.

Dimples in the Sludge

Brahminy ducks soar above an Ayeyarwaddy ghetto,
A flotilla of bamboo inert on the shore;
Interminable grey undulations, Burmese lifeblood,
Drained under colourless pagodas of Sagaing.

Ivory Soap

Damp clothes drying
On the air conditioned wall
Gas station coffee
Breathing Texas blues in
A Louisville hotel room.
Gotta hunger for starvation,
being O, content
With just enough to get by,
That’s ludicrous!
I mean really, who turns their back
On the comforts for which
Liberty died for you?
On the right to be
Dependent upon luxuries which exist
But in proportion
to untold misery.—

Sangsom Chimeras

Smoldering insurrection reduced to the scent of incense,
A mound of ash dedicated to the cult of things past—
Alters mocking fluidity in the nostalgic statuesque.
Spirit quelled clandestinely, like moonlight
Generated from yonder star
Deceives in propagating separations
Of life as distinct from death.
Mind this law of remembering foisted on our lot
Being petrified of nothingness makes of emptiness waste
Invert lotus blossoms a solid ghost
Rigorous controls inscribed around the base
Code older than viral, linguistic origins of collectivism,
No real testament to selflessness,
Rather the original division between us and them.
Deeper than surface requirements for getting along
Within social orders founded on a tyrant’s whim
Employing that old song to divide and conquer—
Are these not tremendous inconsistencies baked into the scam
Propagandistic bytes taken for the nourishment of journalism?
Those futures exist where televised reality goes ahead,
Squashing insurrections against the manufacturing of consent,
But I don’t say it’s nice to meet you there.
Choice divides the dark from egalitarianism;
Precious few cells coercing the foot to oppress its own head.


Shaddocks and mangosteen,
Pints of Mandalay rum,
Coltrane’s A Love Supreme
Clouds obscuring Mt. Fuji.
We bail on Siva’s contrived ride
Hustled along Colombo’s shores,
Took the road under our feet,
Laughed all the way to Hong
Kong at the openly clandestine,
Bringing back what then seemed
Like only the beginning of a
Lifetime of memories to Beijing.
I’m numbed by the jazz now.
Milky white breast exposed,
On the plane; barely worth a
Postcard. Keeping four-four time.

Orange blossoms in spring and autumn,
Changing from branches into hands—
Seeds of love drove through the plateau,
Like steam from Hukou Waterfall.