Reflecting on the Saffron Revolution, in Poetry and Prose by Courtney Wittekind, 20/09/2017
This week’s posts on Tea Circle represent the start of our forum on the “Saffron Revolution,” during which we will feature submissions by those analyzing, debating, and reflecting upon the impact of Myanmar’s 2007 demonstrations, 10 years on. We will continue to accept submissions through the start of the forum, so if you would like to add your voice, whether in your own post or in the form of a response to another, please see our Call for Submissions or write to our editors at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We begin with a poem by celebrated Burmese journalist, activist, writer, and poet Khet Mar, “The Wound.” It was written in 2012 following the release of 651 political prisoners, many of whom were members of the 88 Generation Students’ Group and sentenced following their participation in the 2007 demonstrations. In it, Khet Mar reflects on the struggle for political change in Burma/Myanmar, the country’s resultant legacies of activism, and the experience of witnessing upheaval from afar— an experience all too common for those in exile.
Courtney Wittekind and Khet Mar connected earlier this week to discuss the poem’s representation of the Saffron Revolution’s leaders, its relation to political change writ large, and how its words relate to the present moment, as we now look back upon past events. Their conversation follows the poem in English and in Burmese.
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.
February 3, 2012, 3:49 am