Three Poems

    By Ko Ko Thett

    1. Aloo

    Underappreciated by those to whom all herbs, plants, roots
    and tubers are medicinal, Aloo doesn’t get along with those
    to whom every Yam is Sweet Potato. Calling him Spud is an
    insult to his race. He is an egg from which no hatchling will
    emerge. His skin is thinner than Onion’s. His heart harder than
    Walnut’s.

    Aloo is not as succulent as Watermelon. Not as furtive as
    Custard Apple. No one can swallow him whole. No sunshade is
    cool enough for the eyes all over his body.

    An indispensible ingredient for vodka, he has no sense of time
    and place. He will bloom when he likes, and where he likes.
    When you let him overwinter under your kitchen sink he will
    surprise you with Aloo sprouts.

    When he is baked, his skin gets tanned—he will compete with
    the darkest of wood coal that bakes him. When he is boiled with
    others, he will try to outperform Lentils and Drumsticks in an
    endurance contest. Even if you slice him into thin film, and deep-
    fry him, he will be singing ‘‘The New World’’ at karaoke.

    He is the undisputed original Hexagram, the Father of purple
    flowers, the most celebrated revolutionary from Latin America.

    He has been a vegan since he was underground.

    2. Twelve art project proposals in Ai Weiwei-like proportions

    – Walled: A life-sized Great Wall of China, made of gold LEGO
    bricks, to be installed around the White House for the occasion of
    the 4th of July; in the event that LEGO declines to supply bricks for
    the project, copies of What Happened” by Hillary Clinton will be
    used as bricks

    – Saffron Skies: Saffron shrouds to be placed over Beijing, London,
    Yangon, Brussels and Berlin, each giant shroud a patchwork of
    used saffron robes culled from a million monks in Myanmar;
    this summer installation is set for nine days, hinting at the nine
    qualities of the Lord Buddha

    – Selfie King in the Heavenly Palace: Taking a selfie from Tiangong-1
    space station against the backdrop of the entire population of
    China—Chinese citizens, including those from Taiwan, Hong Kong
    and Macau, are requested to come out for the occasion and look
    up at the artist on Tiangong-1 for a selfie, after which the artist will
    return to earth to meet individually with the participants for one-
    on-one selfies; an estimated 1.3 billion selfies with the artist are to
    be displayed in a purpose-built museum modelled after Ai Weiwei’s
    head; the museum will be named Heavenly Palace [Tiangong]

    – Project 42: Out of forty-three Fabergé eggs left in the world,
    forty-two are to be smashed with a baseball bat in Yankee Stadium,
    both the hitter (the artist) and the pitcher (Lady Gaga or Beyonce,
    to be confirmed), will be nude and televised live; ‘42’ alludes to the
    meaning of life

    – Mechanical Cicadas: The Eiffel Tower is to be covered in a
    colony of 1,789,000 ,000 hand-wound mechanical cicadas that
    will drone for refugees for 1789 hours; the installation can be
    moved to landmarks all around the world

    – Troll Tongue Tied: Breaking off the Troll Tongue
    [Trolltunga, Norway], and replacing it with a hyper-realistic
    rubber-plastic hybrid tongue for a spring day display

    – Terracotta Ai-me (Greater China): A total of 2,285,000 Ai
    Weiwei statues fashioned after China’s Terracotta soldiers to
    be installed on Tiananmen Square for the occasion of China’s
    PLA Day, the number 2,285,000 being the size of the twenty-
    first century Greater China Armed Forces

    – Slant-1: The Fallingwater at Mill Run, Pennsylvania, to be
    tilted 45 degrees to the right; permanent installation

    – Slant-2: The Jade Pagoda in Mandalay, Myanmar, to be
    tilted 45 degrees to the east; permanent installation

    – Worldwide Womb: A hyper-realistic larger-than-life womb
    of a nine-month pregnant woman, complete with chemically
    reproduced amniotic fluid; any volunteer who would like
    to coil up naked in the womb in the foetal position for a
    minimum duration of nine hours will be supplied with
    an oxygen mask and a feeding tube; her situation will be
    constantly monitored and televised; a couple or a family
    of three can also volunteer to be in the womb to simulate
    twins or triplets, volunteers are free to choose their preferred
    way out, pushing strenuously through a rubber vagina or
    Caesarean section; permanent installation

    – Pilgrim Whale-99: A 99-meter blimp, the shape of a blue
    whale, to kiss the banana bud of the 99-meter tall Shwedagon
    Pagoda, for the Double Ninth Festival

    – Seediness-neediness: One million infinitesimal porcelain
    poppy seeds in the eye of an average-sized needle, to be eyed
    by up to ten thousand people at a time using a gigantic clinical
    microscope the size of the World Trade Center in New York
    City; permanent installation

    3. Accent

    My skin was born in the Year of the Pig. My accent much
    later, and it’d rather be a Capricorn. I seduce women with my
    accent. I subdue them with my skin.

    You will still hear my skin whinge even after maggots dwell
    and die in my accent.

    My skin is my landscape, my accent my fresh air. My skin
    is too thin for bad weather. My accent, so incredibly thick it
    whistles under water.

    I am not one of those sentenced to solitary confinement for
    life inside their own skins. I can get under your skin once I
    step out of my accent.

    People judge me by my skin. My skin’s purpose in life is to
    prove them wrong. Once I open my mouth my accent proves
    them right. I keep my mouth shut, my skin open.

    Which is truer, my skin or my accent? When it comes
    to swinishness they are on the same page.

    In places where I am considered white, my yellow accent
    always holds me back. Since whatever comes from my mouth
    is an unpasteurized lie, I will always have a yellow accent.

    As for my skin—

    it will be blues when it fancies the blues;

    it will be jazz when it fancies jazz.

    Ko Ko Thett is a Burma-born poet, literary translator, and poetry editor for Mekong Review. Since his samizdat days at the Yangon Institute of Technology in the 90s, he has published and edited several collections of poetry and translations in both Burmese and English. His poems are widely translated and anthologised. His translation work has been recognised with an English PEN award. Thett is the author of “Bamboophobia” (Zephyr Press, 2022) and has co-edited with Brian Haman “Picking off new shoots will not stop the spring: Witness poems and essays from Burma/Myanmar (1988-2021)” (Ethos Books, 2022) . He lives in Norwich, UK.

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