Burma: A Clipping and a Poem

When self was in New York, at the end of June, she alternated between reading The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.  Since then, she’s posted about the articles she clipped, over and over.  In particular, self remembers WSJ movie reviewer Joe Morgenstern’s review of “The Hurt Locker.”  (The review was titled “Shock, Awe, Brilliance,” which pretty much sums up self’s own feelings about the movie)

Another WSJ clipping was an article about Burma (which, self’s friend Kyi tells her, is called “Burma” by everyone who knows what’s really going on; only clue-less Western reporters refer to the country as “Myanmar”!)  Since self was writing a review on a biography of Aung San Suu Kyi, she read the article with more than the usual interest.  Among other things, she learned about the new capital city of Naypyitaw, which the reporters described as “four-lane highways that are largely empty, a gems museum with sapphires and a zoo with air-conditioned arctic habitats for penguins.”

Here’s something else:

The divide between Myanmar’s shining new capital, home to much of its military elite, and its commercial capital underscores the failure of a decade of U.S. and European sanctions, efforts to break the country’s military regime by cutting it off from doing business with much of the Western world.  Instead, the country’s leaders and top businessmen have survived and even thrived by replacing Western buyers with Asian ones.  Trade with China has more than doubled over the past five years, and sales of natural gas and other resources to Thailand, India and other Asian powers are also growing quickly.  In the process, the regime has only tightened its grip.

The bizarreness of Naypyitaw recalls a poem by Kyi May Kaung, from her chapbook Pelted with Petals:  The Burmese Poems (Self met Kyi in Berlin, at the same conference where she met Linh Dinh, Teri Yamada, Rattawut Lapcharoensap and so many other wonderful writers)

Rangoon Zoo

The polar bear sat
near its single
factory delivered
2 x 1 1/2 x 1 foot
block of
ice —
dejected bear —
the tropical
heat is killing
the seal in
the rectangular swimming
pool had
a little better
luck —
bear and seal exchanged for
very soon the bear
fed on corn on the cob —
the keepers had stolen the
meat for
their families —
very naturally died —
the otter pool is bereft of swimming and squealing otters and
the tigress — loose skin on bones
must have by now
died —
the same tigress that
in her youth
bit the hand
of the keeper who showing off
too familiarly
patted her
head —
Take that she

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