This poem was written right after Burma granted national amnesty to political prisoners on January 13, 2012. Khet Mar explains, "Many of my friends who got very long sentences, 65 years each, were released in this amnesty. My poem expresses my guilt about being far away when they had returned home." Translated by Ko Ko Thett.
What a surprise!
The most cheerful tiding hit me
In the most cheerless hour of life.
I should have been there on the shoulder of the road.
I should have been waving them my welcome.
They haven’t heeded the void of my existence.
They have returned.
With the zeal of a possessed clairvoyant,
A lane into the future has been rebuilt.
Their strength glitters into gold.
They harden into diamonds,
As my chaotic heart is being clamped.
Now I will douse my clay laughter in my tears.
I will turn it into fragile earthenware.
I will color it with hope. What else could I do?
Why do I bother?
What they do every day,
I don’t do it once in a lifetime.
I call it ‘the gap…’ between us.
So, they are the saints, who have
Walked through multilayered walls.
I am the sinner imprisoned in the outer space,
Burning in my own ignoramus fire.
Here is my tour de force;
The anxious wait I’ve been waiting
After I dialed that number,
The sum of the math figures I despise.
From the other side of the universe
Like lint that floats in the air
A charm flows into the tiny steel wire
The knife that has cut a chunk out of my chest commands,
‘Come back home.’
Blood oozes out of my wound.
I sponge it up.
I don’t want to be left bleeding to die.
Whatever form I may take
I need to keep my blood flowing
So I can keep making attempts…
Everyone heads for the last line
Before I get there,
I wish I could dash into the home one more time
To fill their lane with my little pebbles.
To plant cobra’s saffrons in my earthenware.
Khet Mar is a Burmese journalist, novelist, short story writer, poet and essayist who has actively written about the truth lives of ordinary people and the current situation in Burma. Trained as a chemist, Khet Mar embarked on a writing career and published the novel “Wild Snowy Night”, three collections of short stories and a volume of essays. Her works have translated into Japanese, Spanish and English, broadcast and made into a short film in Japan. In 2007 she participated in the prestigious International Writing Program at University of Iowa. In addition to her writing, Khet Mar is a community developer and environmental activist. She is one of the founders of the Zagawa Environment Network, which brings together writers and journalists focusing on environmental issues in the region. She was also a volunteer teacher for a school aimed to help young children living with HIV/AIDS and worked as an organizer for other Monastic Orphanage Education Schools in Rangoon, Burma. In 2009 she was a featured writer at the PEN Word Voices Festival, and is currently writer-in-residence at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, which provides sanctuary to writers exiled under threat of severe persecution in their native countries. In April 2011, Khet Mar participated in Writers in Motion, which is sponsored through grant funds provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the US Department of State. She is currently working as a staff writer at the Sampsonia Way online sponsored by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh.
Ko Ko Thett is a Burmese poet and a literary translator. Since his own chapbooks published illegally in Rangoon in 1996, his poems, translations and commentaries on Burma have appeared in several literary magazines, from World Literature Today and ASIA to Sampsonia Way and Asymptote. With James Byrne, he is the co-editor and translator of Bones Will Crow: Fifteen Contemporary Burmese Poets (ARC, UK July 2012 and Northern Illinois University Press, 2013). He lives in Vienna.