By the Bonfire of Poetry

I must confess
I still miss you, Winter.

You welcomed us with scattered snow;
we were soaked in songs.

When we poured our melodies into the night,
the stars were still
powering up their generators.

We chopped up and burned
agreements that needed no signature
as logs for our little bonfire
(but we grilled no one’s meaty reward).

The darker the night,
the thinner the sweater of dignity;
shrouded in snow,
even at cockcrow we were still sober
(in my imagination, the ale was watered-down).

I’m not happy, Winter —
I stay warm in my personal flames,
nursed by the breath of own heart;
but those who want to barbecue and bite bullets
continue to feud with me.

— Min Ko Naing
(Trans. by Kenneth Wong)

Min Ko Naing was a leader in the student group that led the uprising and democracy movement in Myanmar (Burma) in 1988. After his arrest, he spent 15 years in prison, where he was abused and tortured. He was released from prison in November 2004, only to be re-arrested in 2006 for his pro-democracy work. He released in January 2007, but imprisoned again in November of that year. He was released as part of a presidential pardon in 2012.

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