Urban Poems from Burma

by ko ko thett

urban renewal 


double it or nothing, you and your hybridism 

your face needs to be lifted, the sprawl beyond 

your subconscious needs to be gentrified, wasteyard 

shall be renamed goldengarbageland, dig tunnels for

an extensive sub way network for your pigeon 

commuters, the public transport in your brain should

be integrated, a fence for hate padlocks right in front 

of the white wedding chapel, graffiti shall be encouraged 

on the inner walls of your empty chest, dog parks for dogs

amusement parks for amusements, child-friendly facilities 

for the parents of the children who may never grow up

bingo halls for all ages and sexual preferences, clear the 

woods on the city’s fringes for nine-hole golf courses

logging shall be licensed to make way for  streamlined 

taxiways for international arrivals, plant garden plants 

in every department stores, to age is to get less serious 

about life, to die is to be incinerated to be reincarnated 

a multi-purpose stadium for metal concerts and the 

virpassana for the masses, two ivory chopsticks shall 

be contracted to conduct the people’s symphony orchestra

a brand new opera house to be modelled after a durian

it shall be named after our own houseman, a nine-lane 

boulevard of broken bones shall be the city’s artery

hot-beds will be moved to the out-skirts, council houses 

will be patched up with thatches, aquatic centres for those 

who will learn to splash, splash and splash, waves of all sizes 

shall be regenerated and recycled, the monument of doubt 

in the plaza shall be torn down, in its place the leaning tower 

of certainty will be erected, crocodiles shall be released in 

the moat of the pentagonean presidential palace

all administrative quarters of your soul shall be made 

sound-proof to prevent the intrusion of street noises

malling, walling, enthralling and everything else

that will make your cosmopolis

your oober-capital


The poem is set in the context of the 2005 opening of the new administrative capital of Myanmar, Naypyidaw, 200 miles north of Rangoon, the previous capital.  


the boomtown


a bottle spins 

a rat for protein

a snake rattles

pots and pans for pawnshop

lunar face for the thoroughfare 

rickshaw for the landing vehicle


a tadpole morphs into a mermaid

isn’t she just another entry into the census  

you don’t want to be weighed down 

by the food chain, lectures the dean, 

hanging loose between two branches


no soup in a crystal of salt     

no lamp oil in a grain of sand

no sum makes her night   

no catch cools her day

no rain fills her ocean stomach

no holds barred for her banquet

no one no longer knows what side they are on

in her flesh and faith and toes

no exasperation unbearable

no exile is banishment 


a nip at the wrong ear, game over

a turn into the wrong lane, you are dead

mahogany doesn’t live in tundra

ghost orchid doesn’t grow in desert 

between winter and summer

spring is the suspender belt


neon trenches for canonical gospels, trains 

loaded with last holdouts leave every second 

transmigration passes available for non-nationals

how would you like to be wrapped  


vicuña wool for your majesty 

foliage for the naked