Train a comin': Poems from the Burmese resistance

Zeyar Lynn, Pandora, K Zar Win

Zeyar Lynn: To Charles Bernstein

Lives will surely be lost, es
pecially the valued and valu
able ones' history returns as
his story's hysteria wisteria's
woe-begone wonders of mili
-tary mighteous myths the shit
will go on as the gold of the gul
lible the value of the valueless
the jus-tissed of the injusticed
The I of the many I I I s will not
be vanquished into many me
me me s WE may be killed and
the killing will not stop even if
the killers kiss their killed no
retribution no getting nowhere
to nought in a matrix of murder
ous mushrooming mounts I de
clare I in the form of the many
do die in deathless death as they
live in the death of life to reveal the
future hidden in the futile lives of tr
uth you frame the world as through
a world of righteousness as you live
in the wrold of wright and we go like
a flapped mirror floating on the moors
of might.

(Written in English, Feb. 3, 2021)
Zeyar Lynn: Poet's Statement
(rough translation from the Burmese)
Poetry, like any other art form, can only flourish if it has freedom. That freedom, let us say, is inextricably linked to the freedom of society.

As a citizen and as an individual, being a poet is a matter of national freedom. As blood flows to the heart.

That is why today poets, poets' unions, poetry groups, and lovers of poetry are united in the struggle for democracy, which is the foundation of the nation's independence.

The country’s freedom is the freedom of poetry. Poets will be free if the country is free. Poets will be free only if the poets are free.

That is why poets are now working with the people, and their own conscience, to stop the military dictatorship that is now reigning.

Liberation for Myanmar

Must win, must win
CDM movement [Civil Disobedience Movement]
Must win, must win
Democratic revolution
Must prevail

(Feb. 15, 2021)

(Zyar Lynn: My version of Bob Perelman's original 'China')
We live as easy prey for the empire. Numberless zero (that's us). They tell the generals what to do.
The guy who told the gang to stage a coup was very gong hsi but no fa tsai.
It's the year of the ox. We are boxed oxen billed for the kill.
If the brain you miss, aim at the heart.
The bullet blows your life off.
The bastard son rises also.
I'd rather the world not issue statements; Let us be killed in peace.
Die in front of your life.
A stepfather who points at the gun at least once every whim is a good stepfather.
The landscape is bloody-fucked.
The train sinks you in the drain.
Slippages in the slaughter.
Folks marching along vast stretches of emptiness, heading towards martyrdom.
Don't forget what your body looks like when you are nowhere around your body.
Cots in the nursery caged up like coots, gunned up and gunned down where the generation would normally be.
Even the flags flying at the UN make Myanmar a fucking farce.
If it's time to die we get bullets. They taste sweet to us. They Taste Sweet to us.
The guns are glowing. They point at us.
Pick up your body.
'Hey guess what?' 'What?' 'I've learned how to be shot and killed.' 'Damn! Why do some have all the luck? '
The person whose head exploded laughed at the bullet.
As the country fell, what could the world do? Scavenge for loot?
Slipped dreams.
The sniper looks great in uniform. And the flag looks fucked too.
Nobody enjoyed their own deaths.
Time to rise up.
But better get used to mayhem too.
Zeyar Lynn
20 Feb. Coup '21

(written in English)


"Every car has its own engine,"
Min Ko Naing said.
We hear the train a comin'.
Yellow spring leaves lie on the tracks.
Voices curse, making cacophonies.
Are you gonna run us down? Run me down? Run us down!
Trains will roar.
MR is Myanmar's people.
Bullets rain at midnight
But they won't make our trains kneel.
Hear the trains roar!
Without moving, they move.
Without starting the motor,
revolution's train is starting up,
We won't return to the old station,
we'll march to a new future,
with new tickets in our hands.
Then the train will roar.
Do you hear,
can you hear
the roaring train?
Endless cars are linked.
Here comes our train!
Hear the trains. They are our trains.
February 19, 2021
Translated by Ke' Su Thar & Ch. B.
Zeyar Lynn
The right to self-protection and self-defence.
We will not strike first but will retaliate in self-defence.
Junta-backed brutalities will not be accepted
with heads bowed.
We will do all we can to defend ourselves against police terrorism.
We will not go gently into the night of prison.
We are not 'anarchic mob' as the junta-run media falsely portray us nor do we cause any riot and looting.
Look who are actually doing this in broad daylight, police and soldiers unashamed of their uniforms.
Revolts and revolutions have always been the dynamos and engines of history.
Our Polis shall NOT be a police-state.
We do not expect saviours. We are SOS--- Save OurSelves.
We are the people against military dictatorship.
We shall not be vanquished.
We move forward. We sit. We run. We return. We move forward again.
We are mobile.
Not yet street-warriors but we soon shall be.
We choose in good faith to protect and defend ourselves.
We shall not be vanquished.

(written in English, Feb. 27, 2021)
Zeyar Lynn
Don't bow down and you won't bust your gut.
Cause when you bow down you do.
Translated by Ch.B. 
(Feb. 28, 2021)
Zeyar Lynn
It's OK. Never mind. Don't take it too seriously or even personally. Shit happens.
Anyway, it's not your shit, is it?
It's not your problem that our country
will soon be
the world's unceremonious cemetery.
Come join us one day.
Bring along your departed, too.
Gloriously we'll sing together
"We are the world. We are the civilians.
Slaughtered for our fight for freedom. "
In the meantime, stay safe. Stay home.
Watch the news. Cheat on partner.
The world has never been our oyster.
(written in English, March 3, 2021)

Obituary: Poet K Zar Win (1982-2021)
ko ko thett
Poet K Zar Win, whose poems have appeared in Myanmar magazines since 2004, was killed in a protest in Monywa yesterday (3 March, 2021). 

K Zar Win was born to a peasant family in Latpadaung near Monywa in 1982. Latpadaung is a contentious site where several villages were displaced by Wanbao Copper Mining Ltd. of China. The Myanmar police’ violent repression of Latpadaung villagers’ struggle against the Chinese farm in the 2010s revealed the dark side of “the democratic transition” of Myanmar.

K Zar Win was one of the university students who rallied from Mandalay to Yangon in the 2015 campaign, “Long March for Educational Reforms.” Consequently he spent one year and a month in prison, during which he published “My Reply to Ramond”. 

 Following is a poem from "My Reply to Ramond" I circulated in January. 

K Zar Win wrote to tell me how he enjoyed the translation. 
I simply replied,
"Take care, bro." 

A letter from a jail cell  

Dear Father,
the River, whose stomach 
was cut open,  
has declared war 
on our tiny house on the bank, hasn’t she?
Right in front of the house 
you must be looking out for someone 
who will help you with 
embankment poles
to straighten the river,
to fill her holes with 
In the murky water, 
which rises like a bamboo lance, 
you must be gazing at 
the sesame plantation —
laden with fruits 
ready for harvest.
You must be thinking 
a fistful of rice in your mouth 
is about to be fingered out. 
Maybe you will find solace 
in religion, contemplating 
our five foes.
Maybe you will 
think of the void 
a son’s labour can fill.
One son, two daughters and one son; 
The eldest is a poet in prison, 
the first daughter, a school teacher, 
the second, a graduate in the kitchen, 
the youngest, a student.
Your poet son, 
is he even employable 
as the dah you use to clear weed?
Forgive nothing, Father. 
“Son, Pho Chan,
why do I hear noises behind you?”, 
you asked on the phone. 
“I am at the bus stop
to post a manuscript to a journal,” I lied.
From your liar son in the dock 
to thugs who sweeten you 
with the tips of their tongues, 
“To our benefactor peasants …”,
because they want to have you from behind,
hate them all, Father. 
Hate them all. 
A thief is 
A thug is 
armed to the teeth.
If thieves are ungovernable,
if thugs are ungovernable, 
what’s the point of government? 
Whatever happens to the jungles
whatever happens to the mountains 
whatever happens to the rivers 
they don’t care. 
They love the country 
just the way they love to grate a coconut, 
from inside out, 
for coconut milk.
Plinth by plinth, to make their throne taller,
they will point their guns at the urna 
on the Lord Buddha’s forehead.  
Their class is that crass.
To cuss at that class
if your religion forbids you 
allow me to lose that religion.
I will turn the air blue 
on your behalf.
Maybe you don’t know yet. 
your son was 
set up 
for demanding the so-called police 
not to harm ordinary citizens. 
your son, who is not a thief
nor a thug 
will become employable, 
good as your dah that clears weed. 
For now, Father, 
keep gazing at the plantation 
you’d ploughed with your naked shoulders. 
Keep singing 
the anthem of 
The Peasant Union. 

 Yours ever,

K Za Win 
Cell 1, Section 10
Thayawaddy Prison 

Spanish tranlsation and Burmese original here.

Zeyar Lynn

To the Ethnic Armed Organizations:
"Peace, our brethren, peace. We desire eternal peace in our country. Please accept and agree to our unilateral ceasefire. After all, what everyone wants is peaceful existence, isn't it? No fighting for one month, ok?"

To the unarmed civilian protesters:
"Come out, you mfs, come out or we'll burn your homes down. We'll rape your daughters and your wives. We'll incinerate your whole ward. We'll overturn your whole street. Why are you hiding now? Come out and show your balls, you bloody cowards. We'll shoot you all. We'll kill you all. We'll crush you into bloody bits and pieces. "

To the world:
"Do not interfere into our internal affairs. We aim to build a peaceful, free, and fair democracy that is truly genuine and well-disciplined. We will uphold our sovereignty and continue to exercise active and neutral foreign policy. We wish to abide peacefully amongst our fellow nations of the world, especially with China and Russia. Peaceful coexistence is our desire and whatever we do in our country is in accordance with our rule of law. "
To themselves:
"We will never relinquish our power over the country. We are the sovereign masters and it is our mandate to lead the people towards a modern, developed, and prosperous future. Be loyal to the armed forces. Exterminate all those who dare defy us."
Written in English. April 1, 2021

Zeyar Lynn

Some days you think you're dead
Some days you feel you're dead
Some days you know you're dead 

Some days a kind of death moves you. People around you ask, 'Hey, what gives you that aliveness?'

Some days your shell cracks. An essential part of you seeps out. To dry up. To evaporate. To take something valuable to you from you and never to return. To leave a hole in you. To make you a hole. 

Some days you're not even there nor anywhere but people say they saw you here and there. Like anyhere or anythere.

Written in English, May 30, 2021 

Min San Wai
translated by ko ko thett

There’s a hole the size of a pencil tip
in the bamboo wall of our house.
Not so long ago Little Daughter
piled thanaka on her cheeks and
disappeared into that hole.
She is gone for a long time.
Mother can’t wait any longer.
She peeps into the hole and finds
herself looking down a gun muzzle.
In the background is a gala dinner,
where Myanmar in blood and gore
is chopped up and served.
At the top of the grand table sits
the pagoda donor, sipping a
glass of Little Daughter’s blood.
The dead wail in the darkness outside.
Mother passes out, repeating
My Little Daughter, my Little Daughter!
Father gets curious and looks into the hole.
Family members take turns
peeping into that hole.
Today each and every person in this country
has a tiny hole as big as a pencil tip
in their chest.

- “Hole” is dedicated to Pan Ei Phyu, a fourteen-year-old girl who was killed by a bullet that came through the bamboo wall of her house in Meiktila, Myanmar on 3/27/2021.
- “Pagoda donor” is my translation for someone who builds a pagoda. Pagodas are costly projects, both to build and maintain. Only Burmese monarchs and queens in the past, and Burmese generals and extremely wealthy people in present-day Myanmar, can afford a pagoda.

See links below for more about Burmese poetry