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

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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