– Read this, – she says.
– I thought of you immediately, –
she says by way of explanation
for the magazine she’s placed in my face.
So I obediently murmur through the first
few paragraphs as she continues,
– Burma,it’s horrible, just tragic! –
And I nod, yes, yes it’s (unspeakable,
intangibly tracing patterns a tattoo
outlined repetitively; just twitching;
a lizard tail still moving; a beaten dog)
–Yes! – she interrupts,
– That’s it, that’s what they say, exactly!
Just less poetically than you put it, and –
(the place I had visited, the people I had met,
they had been past pain)
– Yes! – she interjects.
– Did you ever, – she starts to ask
(I started, I had tried, but I could never
bring myself to…) It was not mine.
– Oh! But you will when you read this!
It will draw it out! – she enthuses.
and so I hand it back to her.
(give me time, I have things to do)
But she pushes and I try to wiggle out,
(I am no good at puzzles because I keep
looking for pieces when I should be
fitting them together) I continue
finding pieces, too many, one here,
one there, one gone, one not yet,
and none of them mine.
And I shake my head. (I can’t)
it wasn’t, (it was a place past pain)
– That’s it! That’s your title! See?
Work with me kid, you’ve got a title,
now you’ve got to finish it! You will! –
(But there’s not enough of which I’m certain.
I can’t say for sure if I was ever there,
of whether that was me, of what the place was,
or even when, much less whose…)
I had overstayed my time in the land of plenty
and so I crossed the river in a rickshaw,
coin under my tongue.
The boatman was a walnut-shrivelled deferment
on his nation’s past but he tolled the gong with fervour.
The child-monks stuck their hands down my pockets
and I could not find a so much as a seed to eat
though the gardener lead me to the sunset,
puppy on the carriage floor.
In the gutted city on that side of the river
I was some semblance of a ghost,
men would not see me and women could not speak.
So I climbed into the belly of a metal beast
and for six hours women who had never moved faster
than their own feet evacuated their bellies
as we climbed the hills, halted on the half-hour
by assault rifles wearing uniforms.
Later, with a man I let them call my husband,
I tried to watch an action film from the future past
on a tiny glowing hole in the wall,
and when wandering out to pee,
found my way back next door instead
to a film of forbidden flesh
watched by rows of dead organs in dead bodies.
But Buddha glowed across the lake
and after midnight an abandoned hotel
throbbed with teenagers.
And having met the refugees still breathing,
in the land of plenty on the other side of the river,
as they prepared to return,
having sung with them around a campfire
and danced the ancient dances of the snakes
to Crosby Stills, Nash and
– You are too young, – they had told me.
What I thought I was offering, I cannot remember.
– You are too young, – they said.
– It’s not your turn, not yet, – they had said.
So one day, yet, perhaps, I’ll put it into words
that others can make sense of,
perhaps once I’m younger still.