Burning holes in the darkness

Artwork of four hands lifting a three-finger salute, with the words "Hope" and "What's happening in Myanmar"

By Mary Bruno
Purchase this print through Myanmar Poster Print, with all proceeds going to Mutual Aid Myanmar

Today, silence stirs in the streets of Myanmar in the wake of the anniversary of the coup. It is barely a celebration, or a day of mourning, but more a surreal twilight that one year has passed since our lives were blown into the wind. A child kicking sand on a windy beach—we are the tiny particles flying to the vicious flurry of ocean breeze. Life is the brutal wind that carries us, displaced from dreams of happy futures.

Family and friends lament on social media, of moments where they realised their lives came to an end. A eulogy to thyself, I suppose. But I didn’t have the strength to reflect on myself knowing after February, March and April would bring on a string of anniversaries of deaths of heroes. Martyred girls and boys, parents still holding their dead children’s portraits abreast. Poets killed in broad daylight, writers tortured and maimed. I wonder if their ghosts watch on from the ether, an invisible shaking rage that waits to be freed from these dues of life.

And how do the living proceed?

We live scurrying in haste from one place to the next under the surveillance of armed dogs. Hold your breath at the traffic light, in case they decide to pull you over. One wrong word, one bad turn, one angry look away from danger, we walk on the thin line that threatens us at every step.

A man burned himself alive in Mandalay, protesting blackouts. He left a note written on a torn piece of elementary school writing paper, “May the people have 24 hours of electricity. We are not going back to 2001+2002.” His name was Ko Aung Aung Soe, and he was twenty years old. When you read this, you think: How could he do this to himself, life is too precious. Yes, life is precious. But not so when death brings more freedom than living. Burnt corpses lie still, undisturbed, their ashen flesh flaking to the ground to nurture the earth. Wash the streets with water and it will carry us to sea. And we will float there, in the wistful waves, and yearn for a life too precious to lose.

Dear reader, on this anniversary of the coup, I have no substance to offer you but a snapshot of the void that is life in Myanmar. But the people’s dreams do burn holes in the darkness and pitch light onto this all-consuming evil. Ko Ko Thett and Brian Haman’s anthology Picking off new shoots will not stop the spring is the very essence of this light that survives us. Poets dead and alive, still sing on, and we must join the chorus for the sake of the precious lives we have yet to live.

Khin Chan Myae Maung
1 Feb 2022
Contributor to Picking off new shoots will not stop the spring
Author of Giving Alms

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