All roads lead to Rome.
Rome leads to just once place —
Caesar lost war on Cleopatra’s bosom.
Each of us happened to be Brutus.
Let’s get bold, and be shameless!
The harder the head the easier
it will break into smithereens.
Laundry is needed for soiled clothes.
White gets stained on white too.
You need to whitewash over and over again.
If there are dynamites in your head
there won’t be a white dove with
an olive branch in your heart.
You will wear crown of thorns and
a lot of scorns, but no one
will wait for you to be raised from the dead.
A soldier with an amputated leg, father
to several hungry children, says,
“Not everyone can be Jesus.
Maybe everyone can be a Napoleon.”
An old woman who has collapsed from
malnutrition chimes in,
“Jehovah did not create two Napoleons.
Not everyone can become Napoleon.
But everyone can become a Bonapartiste.
Your Bonapartism has taken
my farm, my husband, my children
There may be an end to all calamities.
There is no end to hatred.
When will the wars end?
Answer to this question, only God will have.”
Translated from the Burmese by Ko Ko Thett for the forthcoming “Picking off new shoots will not stop the spring: Witness poems in essays from Myanmar (1988-2021)”, edited by Ko Ko Thett & Brian Haman, forthcoming from Ethos Books in January 2022.
Khet Thi (1976-2021) is one of the household names in contemporary Burmese poetry. On 8 May 2021, he was snatched by security forces in Shwebo, Myanmar. The following morning, his body, internal organs missing, was returned to the mortuary in Monywa. The poem was first published in Burmese in Beauty Magazine, July 2017.