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Two Poems by Mandy Moe Pwint Tu

“The Buddha Tries to Withdraw Money During the Revolution” and “On Being Absent During the Revolution”

Poetry | Poetry Tuesday, poetry
October 18, 2022

The Buddha Tries to Withdraw Money During the Revolution

They’re bowing. Wrinkled foreheads touching gravel,
cracked palms tugging at Spider-Man T-shirts. But even
the children know it’s him.

It’s the light. Less the neon
twinkle-lights spiraling at the Shwedagon; calmer, lighter.
He gets in line behind a woman in a tattered tamein.
She turns, presses her palms together, wishes she had

a lotus. Its sandpaper stem, paper petals. Wants it
for the significance of his birth, of his life. Instead
she stares, her eyes begging to speak, speaking without
saying: ဘုရား why are you here?

Almost, almost an answer: nirvana is only bearable
in a hopeful world. My mother sent me here, he says,
to see. He means to breathe: this stilted air, stale with salt
and sweat. Desperation is a specific reek; the ground

fraught with it. At fault with it. The sun batters
browning backs, the ones who still believe in waiting
your turn. He wants to say karma is an excuse
for the dung beetle, the stray dog, the military general.

It’s not for a country.

The gravel pierces his heel.
The mud sticks to his skin. Sweat stutters through the saffron.
He wants to speak, but the words won’t come. Wants to pray,

but God, to whom?

On Being Absent for the Revolution

Spring Revolution back home,
—and I am here. Wrapped up and wilting
in fading daffodils, twilight-tripping and trillium-tied.
Back home, the padauk is blooming, her golden tresses
the kind of wealth that hope affords. Even this tree
is useful.
—But I am here,
nestled nicely in narcissus, rippled with redbuds,
shaking cherry blossoms from their boughs. Back home,
blood is water spilled from flesh. Flowers bloom
in the wake of the dead, but will they wake?
But I wake
—I wake here.
Spring outside my window, winter boughs sprouting green.
These balding cypress knees are nothing compared
to the knees of my people, their bodies thudding
with the glint and sear of metal through their heads.
Hail the victorious dead: and sand the roads.
Let the blood lead a little ways, then nowhere.
See, these roads can lead
—oh, nowhere.
The way home is closed. But spring is here,
on this unsalted earth. On this daisy dotted grass,
where dandelions still hold wishes for puckered lips.
No gunshots in the night here, no shards of glass
on my bedroom floor. No thunder of pots and pans
in the dead of night. My skin is clean, unstitched.
My conscience tainted, not my body. My scars
my own. No scars for home. My mother knows
where I am.
I am not with her, I am
—here.