I dreamt of Yangon last night.
A teacher in a wig was teaching a Shakespeare play
And asked me to read the biography of Levi Strauss in Spanish.
It made me so angry.
The way home felt new
Yet so familiar
As I walked in between the short road-side tea shop stools that spill onto the pavement
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 stop
I saw the green and white adorned children
I caught myself smiling
The little girl’s hand almost hit the man drinking tea
I felt an exuberance in my body
Like my feet weren’t touching the ground
Not that I even needed to
A neighbour had left the iron gate to the apartment building open
Every time I walked up the stairs, I thought to myself
How steep the stairs are
Then I forget about them again.
My mother greeted me with a smile at the doorway
It is a dream after all.
“Why don’t you study maths?”
My mother asked me.
“Here, take this”
Staring at the white paper scribbled in numbers and formulas
“Why don’t I study maths?”
I asked myself.
I would be better off had I listened to my mother.
I grapple and ride dreams like a freight train.
I just want to sit and watch my mom apply Thanaka¹ like I used to.
¹ A paste made from ground bark applied on the skin.
My face is all sticky when I wake up.
Sometimes when I cry in my dreams, I find tears on my pillow in the morning.
My armpits aren’t smelling but they’re sweaty.
These days, I don’t even wash my face or brush my teeth when I wake up.
But I’ll try to sweep and cook something before noon.
Everytime I sweep, I wonder where hard-to-catch little white specks of dust come from
Instead of chasing after them like an exhilarated child, I’m just impatient.
The morning sun reaches my face from behind the dining table
Just 3-inches tall, the cactus looks beautiful under the sun
I’m envious of those that only need to drink the sun to survive
How much food do they store in advance?
They’re not like me, who’s winded after little movements here and there.
2 cups of white rice and 1 cup of wild rice
I wash them in a pot with force, and the feeling of each grain rubbing between my fingers is a sort of meditation.
My newly calloused fingers transform into the best tools for washing rice.
My eyes go to the wild plants growing in the backyard.
I should cut them, I should cut them, I think. They’re getting taller than humans!
Should I cut them?
The white cloudy water from washing the rice will be lunch for the plants.
Two birds, one stone.
While the rice cooks, I sit in front of the house. The dog approaches me.
There’s so much space, why do you want to be close to me?
I pet his little furs and it makes me feel good.
The one whose genetics have been modified seems to like it too.
Later, I’ll throw a ball into the air and play with him. Watch.
I’m just teasing you because I love you.
But sometimes my love can be rude.
The names that got bullied under the guise of love feel crude.
After a while, I close my eyes and breathe in the smell of rice that wafted into the living room
I don’t know why I like such things – bland and unsavoury.
I look out the window at the lunch guests who are not there.
At the end, I mix the white rice with fish paste sauce and raw cucumber, and I eat alone.
I’ll feed a piece or two of cucumber to the patient dog.
When I cook eggs, I suck the whites clean before giving him some.
But sometimes he eats the bones and throws them back up.
Today’s pillow-case changing day.
My nails might break.
When it comes to pillow cases, I like them bright and colourful.
My mother once said you should only wear colourful things while you are young.
My wardrobe is full of reds and pinks.
Then my mother gave them away.
I’m not young anymore.
At dusk, I sit and write.
Nothing that makes sense.
Little things here and there.
I write for myself.
Why are you worried about whether others will like it or not?
When my brain gets a bit tired, I go and paint the bedroom.
I thought a light sage colour might be calming, but I found myself wandering the aisles of orange hues at the store again.
It’s hard to even paint when you’re not in a good mood.
My hands aren’t brushing up the corners evenly.
That’s why I never paint perfect pictures.
I splash the paint whichever way.
In the late evening, the sun shines on the coral carnations
The house feels full again
I run and play with the dog between the sofas in the living room
I’m so tired
I change into trousers first because when I wear my tamein² it’s easier for him to bite me
My heart, just like the never-closing doors at the childhood home, keeps opening
And then it feels hollowed
One day that door will swing open.
I didn’t wear shoes the whole day.
I should probably give away my socks too.
The dusty feet will get licked just like he gets kissed with his ears pulled
My feet are never cold anyways.
By 7pm I’m in bed.
I read the news.
I keep a glass of water by my bedside because a dry throat tends to wake me up in the middle of the night.
In my dream, I’m back in the cave full of jasmine garlands.
A man in a linen shirt comes to get me
He says we’re going to the pagoda.
I become a child again.
When I wake up in the morning, even though I can’t smell it, I know I’ll be covered in sweat.
² A draped skirt worn by Burmese women.
I can see it vaguely from the corner of my eyes
Someone loitering outside the house
They cannot enter unless invited.
I’ll spread out the bamboo mat
I’ll tie up the mosquito net
I’ll welcome you with great hospitality.
I’ll make some lahpet³.
But we all know you can’t stay long.
Why can I see you when others can’t?
I have a strange gift.
My mother says that me, who strings together jasmine flowers in the wet caves each time my birthday approaches, has a strange gift.
I’ll just live like my mother
Who wears a red shirt and go off to ride a horse with furs like a colour of a coconut shell every dark night
Is mother happy?
Are her tears falling?
I imagine her usually oiled hair will be let loose.
The next night
Mother who never goes out
We’d find dust in her nipples.
I was raised on milk and algae.
Sometimes banana and coconut too.
But I tend to like white people’s food more.
I want to taste and chew the little shreds of gold and silver.
Is my brother from a previous life upset with me?
For not doing good things.
There’s many who get called back from this life.
Heaps of them.
I’m happy in this life.
I’m miserable in this life.
To keep me in this life, mother will pray and do offerings to those in and out of sight.
“Tie the ropes around her hands in the back!”
Who tied my hands together?
I can’t see the ropes and I don’t see the hands
But mine are behind my back.
From the corner of my eyes,
I see a mirror
There’s someone in the mirror
Someone without thanaka on their face
Someone without their tamein on their waist.
Someone without fish paste breath.
Someone without a bra on their chest.
Someone’s at the doorway.
I see them lingering.
They must leave in three days.
I don’t want to call them in.
I’ll just break off a branch in the garden
And let them stay forever.
³ Burmese fermented pickled tea leaves salad.