Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Poem--Death of Neda --by Kyi May Kaung

Monday – my name day.

Death of Neda 

Her name means The Calling.
She loved to travel.
They met in Turkey.

One shot.
She wasn’t vomiting blood.
She was dying.  Her eyes rolled up.
Her doctor fled overseas.
Her music teacher forced
to change his testimony.
Her fiancé arrested.

President Ahmadinejad interviewed on CNN
the interpreter capturing so well the bleating tone.
The camera holds, the small eyes, the nose
sniffing sideways.

Language lesson--pant suit & longyi

Language lesson:

pant suit= what Nancy Pelosi and Hilary Clinton wear on the job.
longyi=Burmese sarong.

pa soe= man's longyi

pah wah=stole, formal wear for females. As worn by Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi--

pan pan hlyet bair

a famous line from Burmese poet Zawgyi's poem

Ma Baydar

Miss (Water) Hyacinth.

"The ducks they are a hundred two hundred
but Miss Baydar

she is always

with flowers in her hair."

Considered Daw Suu's theme song.


Monday, November 16, 2015

National Bonsai Collection--

Incredible--Japan's gift to National Bonsai Foundation--from private donors, including a Japanese PM and the Imperial Household.

Look at the training dates on these little old trees--

one is from the 17th century.


They were just following orders--a poem by Kyi May Kaung

They were just following orders.

They were just following orders
when it came to it no one could find out
where the orders came from all they knew was
they came from Above, not from the sky –
number one  blamed two and two blamed one
and the people blamed the Butcher
but guns do not all on their own suddenly
spout death with bayonets and live bullets.

Someone somewhere had first of all to decide
the budget would go more to guns than to butter
or rather more guns and bullets than rice –
than food rationed even in the relatively better
times, a bottle of cooking oil for a family of four
per month, a bottle of kersosene in four months
barely enough to soak the torn and twisted corkscrew-like
newspaper to start the fire going – sometimes four minute
lighter flints wrapped in paper and damp-headed, dead-
headed, matches that never ignite.  Then someone had to tell
all those soldiers to march five abreast
goose-stepping, down the streets.  Didn’t you
see on Nightline, this young man just
looking around, just passing the time, sitting
on the street – shooting the breeze – inside a
spare tire – slim
protection – suddenly shot
Wham!  In the chest. 

all these soldiers with their fingers on the
triggers.  During the Demonetization  toting up
the numbers on punched cards, we did not
even dare, to sneeze.  Somewhere someone had
to say, it’s time to shoot, it’s OK to shoot
children, their jinglees,  sharpened bicycle spokes
were dangerous, they taunted
the soldiers, for their lack of edu-
cation.  Does Provocation justify being

And someone who should have known better
says to me in America – they were warned not
to come out – the army would shoot to kill
and yet they did.  Whose fault is it?  I
look on in horror – would you say this – if it
were, your child?  Your son?  Now thirteen.
He says – But nothing happened
to the boy – Does that prove anything?

During the (first) Gulf War a man wrote to the
President of the United States:  Mr. Bush  if
my son dies I will not forgive you.  The
paramount leader says contemptuously
of his own people – with whom he wishes so
much to identify:  They quickly forget
anyone who has wronged them, they quickly
forgive.  But do you really think, the mother
of a 5’8” son, tall who came home, legs broken, in a 5’ coffin, who
stays silent out of fear, has really forgiven?

How long do you think it takes to grow
a baby into a man, nurtured every day
from when his shoulders were two finger joints wide
the soles of his feet, two finger widths, long? 

I can’t imagine how you could walk
that day in September.  On the radio before
I left for the railway station, I heard, the mood
is very grim --  the students are prepared to
die.  Two and a half  hours later as I get off the train in
Baltimore – my friend greeting me from
her little red car, says – It’s all over the army
has taken back power again, the students
have fled to the Border.  My feet are like
jelly, and walk along without any act of
volition on my part.  My friend had stopped
to buy a pink anthurium, and had forgotten
behind one of her twenty credit cards.
She said her husband heard the news on
his short wave radio.   

Suddenly I think of Oswięncim in the
winter, in February, the warehouses full
of women’s hair, children’s booties, suitcases,
pathetic names and addresses, written on each.  Spectacles
all sorted out systematically by type. 
Concrete slab tables used, to pull out the
gold fillings, before, the corpses are
incinerated.  Even killing can be mass
production.  Of hair, used to weave
upholstery.  My classmate from
Nigeria writes a poem – of how all that hair
now all a uniform color  because of the gas
was once also different in color, not just in
texture or was it curly or straight, short or
long – was once on some woman’s head
who was once loved by some man.  On the
way back from Auschwitz to Kraków, he shows
me the poem, on the bus. 

In the Spring in Majdanek near Lublin
my friend takes me through a field of
yellow dandelions.  We climb steps as up
a Burmese stupa.  She says though it’s a
lovely day, and we are on holiday, do
not smile for your picture.  It is not
appropriate here, Elsbièta says.  These are human
ashes – they only roofed it over, recently.

How much human ashes, must have
blown away in this open field, between the War
and our visit, in 1969?  How much ash
does one human being, make?
Ounces?   Pounds?  I think ounces.  When
my other friend’s father died and he was
cremated, she said she interred the
ashes in an urn.  I should have looked.
How much ashes does one human being – produce?

Copyright Kyi May Kaung
c. 1994


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Liberalism and me--by KMKaung

I still think The Guardian, famous as the most liberal in the Wn world, has the best and most thoughtful coverage, and the most human.

Please read it, it is good.

I have only so far read 2 or 3 profiles of the victims, and one was an architect who was a Muslim and had done a thesis on Mecca pilgrimages--so--it is sad to say this, but it is really "equal opportunity carnage" and most of the victims were in the prime of life, highly educated and with income levels to match.

It is so sad, and really, more needs to be done on the poor disenfranchised areas of (European) cities--

when I was at Penn, the director of the Christian Center told me how they regularly used to have to rescue freshmen (freshers) who were lonely in college and ended up joining cults and giving up their passports.

They had to be de-brainwashed, she told me.

This was a lovely woman who had adopted a black child and became a pastor herself, because she said, "In the (American) Midwest, I could only be a pastor's wife, not a pastor myself."

She went on to get a Ph.D. in Theology.

I am afraid "religion" for some is becoming a kind of murderers' club--in the name of religion.

An Eritrean artist I interviewed said, "People like ritual because it gives them structure and identity and they can do things by rote" (according to "the law").

I hate to say it, but my late friend Y became more religious and rule-bound in the West, whereas at home mutual friends said she could and did sit with Chinese friends who were eating pork at the same table.

I only wish the "must" in her, as in "I must stay registered in the best business school in the world" had been less strong in her.

As Zarine our Parsi friend from Bombay said, "How many universities do you think there are in the USA?  About 3 thousand."

And my transportation professor only advised I change departments, which I did, pulling a political scientist in to be my dissertation chairman.

This is by the way, but once when we were discussing our plight together ref. our papers, and our lawyer, she told me not to sit on her bed if I was menstruating, because then she would have to launder the whole thing.

The bed at that time was like Hans Christian Anderson's the Princess on a Pea.

Not only a sheet and top sheet, certainly, but also a thick quilted counterpane.

I obediently sat on a chair.

In Bali, another friend was shocked because a temple said, "Please do not come if if you have your monthly courses."

She asked "Why?"

I said, "Well, we are Buddhists, but Hinduism is older--"

I knew from my friends in Boulder, probably one of the most liberal of US cities, that you cannot go to a Hindu puja if you are menstruating.

As I was not, I went with my new friend who allowed me to stay with her for 3 weeks before the dorm opened in Philadelphia.  I felt really at home with all the Indian women.  I felt at home in Hema's house, when I could hear in the morning her computer specialist husband praying.

I don't know what language it was, maybe Hindi, but I could tell it was a prayer.

She would tell her son, then about 11 at the time, "Put the ham away,--is coming."  I did not understand until she and the mutual friend said, they could not eat meat.  G. brushed her teeth when she accidentally bit into a meat flavored potato chip--

-- And there were more racist incidents, or racist looks from an Egyptian man, when I was happily walking home through Powelton, talking with two black women friends, one an African American from the Virgin Islands who had been a Fulbright in India, and one an Ethiopian who had been arrested in Ethiopia and had been to Burma while working for an airline.

Molu told me of the bad condition in which Russian tenants left a house, peeing in the fireplace, and she said she read Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, in an Ethiopian prison.

She reminded me of a wonderful and elegant Ethiopian Bruck Kebede, who my sister and I knew in Poland as a classmate, and the Nigerian, whose name I have forgotten, but who showed me the poem he had written on the bus when we came back from Auschwitcz/Oswiencim.

I tried to replicate some of the sentiments in one of my poems.

"And all this hair (in the warehouse in the concentration camp, only one left for display, but piled high to the roof--The Nazi's recycled the hair to weave upholstery cloth)

"And all this hair
was once on the head of some woman
who was once loved by some man--"

I can say that I have been many places, and met many humane people.

I can say I am better than many people who stayed in Burma, learned to get on and survived and got rich.

I am more broad minded.

I try not to make snap judgements about people.

I don't measure by the $ income rod.


In the 1980s, in Philadelphia, "there were already religion-based killings by fundamentalists?

one victim an Islamic scholar at Penn who was shot down in his home.

I remember my thesis supervisor telling me "I will never study Islam, these people are fanatics." 

And he never did.

Some of the people mentioned in this piece, were Muslims, one Parsi, some Christians, some Hindus, and I have no idea what the religions of the others' were.

I never thought to ask, and I don't think religion is relevant.

It is just a crutch.


 Photos from Internet--first 3--Auschwitz

Crematorium and ovens for human remains at Majdanek, both concentration camps in Poland.

I have been to both places.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris attacks --analysis--KMKaung

4 hours ago ISIS claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.
Gatwick Airport in UK was evacuated due to a package scare.
The statement from ISIS is in French--

I only ever had 4 months of basic French lessons in 1967 or so. No, 1962, as I remember U Chit Hlaing teaching on 7th July, and he was so rattled (because he knew in advance there would be shooting) that he spoke of his gods--"isms"

(of course he is a well known communist or socialist and author of Burmese Way to Socialism)

anyway, from what I can read--

ISIS doc is couched in very "religious" terms and uses the terminology of the Crusades, mentioning the Caliphate, and praising Allah.

It says 8? brothers targeted specially chosen target and spoke of France trembling in its shoes and says this will be only the first.

Scary, non?

It says something like these are places where French-----

anyway, the site that posted says an English translation will be out soon.

Vigils in cities all over the world and one attacker was identified by finger prints on corpse--known to French police, so maybe attacks partly home grown.

Commentary says this shows "an increase of capability" to carry out large scale attacks--statement says it is retaliation for Fr bombing of Syria.

Sad thing is Poland is already saying it is closing its borders to refugees, while we know that the refugees are victims of Asad and ISIS.

True some terrorists may sneak in (it is a known fact that many Nazis got in, and there are LOTS of Burmese junta sympathizers new and old--among them Col CM)


it is truly wrong to target real refugees who have nowhere else to go, and it is unlikely a refugee will take up arms (at least not immediately) and shoot at country that gave them refuge.

As my pol sci prof the late Henry Teune used to say (of people power) "they can't even stand up."

Well, I bid you Peace and pl remember, the Paris attackers were not also the Rohingya of Burma, forced out to sea or held to fester in internal concentration camps (progroms) by the regime.

That is why I wish you all to read and why Ma Ba Tha the "buddhist" extremist group is so dangerous in Burma.


Terrible Friday the 13th in Paris--

Well, I am going to sleep.
The death toll is sure to mount as some of the wounded, 60 said to be severely wounded, may not pull through.
All governments and medical personnel and hospitals should do contingency planning for this sort of thing.
In Paris, the help and the troops came pretty fast, but still a lot of people can be shot in 15 minutes.
I was going to say that since 5? of the attackers blew themselves up with suicide belts, there may not be remains (of the attackers) for much identification.
But I expect some group will start to claim responsibility.
I must say that I found The Guardian live blog to be the fasted and best informed.
Let's just be calm and see what tomorrow brings.
If you are in France, consider donating blood.

Friday the 13th Nov turned out to be TERRIBLE--
here from a live tweet from the Guardian:
The paramedics had arrived and were tending to people. We saw dead bodies and saw people – I saw a guy who had been shot in the stomach. It was horrendous. There was blood everywhere. And the one thing that struck me was about the blood in the movies and the blood in real life. In real life it is thick.
We took a circular stairs upstairs to the first floor of the cafe and up there were more witnesses and wounded people.

Paris terror attacks: eight attackers dead after killing at least 120 people – live updates
Latest coverage of the attacks across Paris that have left at least 120 people dead
gu.com/p/4e7zp/stw#bl…|By Claire Phipps
CNN: At least 149 people killed in Paris attacks - Story
At least 149 people were killed in attacks in Paris Friday night, according to CNN.
bit.ly/1SPqTkd|By Nikki Bowers

    Paris attacks: At least 153 killed in gunfire and blasts, French officials say @CNN
    At least 153 people were killed in shootings, a hostage situation and explosions in Paris and a nearby city late Friday, according to French officials.
    cnn.it/1lntS8r|By Steve Almasy, Pierre Meilhan and Jim Bittermann, CNN

    I am sorry if you are nauseated, shocked or repelled by these live updates from major news sources, but I feel it is my duty to update you, especially as most of my FB audience live inside Burma--
    If it gets overwhelming, you can just log off of your device and go do whatever, but I have to keep going.
    That's what I do in crisis situations and it never hurts to know what is happening.
    In a way it's become ingrained in me since 1988, and we only had radio then.
    Then there was 2007, then there was hurricanes Rita and Sandy, then there was 2008 and Nargis cyclone, and so on.
    And of course 9/11 in 2001, when we could see the Pentagon in flames from the rooftop of my building, and I had to sit with my neighbor whose stock broker boyfriend was not yet home, So I guess this is what I do.
    I don't believe it wrong to be vigilant.
    Long ago, in the 1990s there was a murder in my university building, and I was away visiting friends. I found out about it from watching TV.
    Always keep your wits about you, teach children and yourself and other adults to play dead if you cannot escape immediately--
Why do the French allow home-grown radicalization ??
Thank you for the.posts of what is happening or has happened in our vulnerable. world.
Great !
I don't think people know if it is home grown or not yet--No one has yet claimed responsibility. What is certain is that European countries are more vulnerable as they are so close. I have not traveled internationally since 2010, but I do know from a lot of travel 2002-2010 that security in Amsterdam and Munich are very tight, even for those of us in transit. There is a lot of talk of French citizens who went to Middle East and came back. If you remember many young people have been recruited into the radical groups--these people had military training like ones in the Mumbai hotel attack. That book describes in great detail the combination of "religious indoctrination" and commando style training that is chilling. Well, try to be safe wherever you are.

Paris bombings--Please visit my Twitter page and my Facebook pages, as events moved too fast for me to blog.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Quote of the day--from my novel Wolf

Quote of the Day--

from my novel Wolf:

Father to Inn Inn, who does not want to put in enough see chett (cooked oil)
into the rice salad he is making.

"Pour it in, Inn Inn. There is no such thing as too much oil. Let us have abundance for this one day in our life."

It is 1988, and Mother has been preparing ingredients for the htamin let thoke for one week already, hiding the pounded dry shrimp from her son Mothi, who at this age (teenager, 16) eats voraciously.