With A Lantern of Hope

Drifted in by tidal waves
with hugs of attachment
on the shore of the North Sea
a poem from Burma washed up.

No sun, no moon, can be seen
on the Norwegian beach.
Wearing the robe of mist
going up the Scandinavian mountain
with a shaken, broken voice
singing a home-sick song.

I will surely arrive at some point.

Though our homeland is under darkness
it will be short-lived.

Soon in the sky
dull darkness will clear,
a brightly coloured dawn
will arrive.

A journey of ten years
as short as a snap of the fingers.

A poem
will pack treasure
enter the village gate
greet ‘hello’
a chance to hug the public.

But now . . . atop a snow-covered mountain
while hoping for the light
singing homesick songs
lighting up a lantern of hope,
to keep singing of what I miss.

— Tin Moe
(Trans. by Wai Yan Phone, Violet Cho and David Gilbert)

Poet Tin Moe was active in the Burmese democracy movement and became a member of the National League of Democracy after the August 1988 uprising. As a result of his political activities, he was held for six months without charge in 1991 before being incarcerated in the Insein prison for four years. He was not given any reading or writing materials during his imprisonment. He escaped Myanmar in 1999 and received political asylum in the United States in 2000.

[Research note: Tine Moe, Kabya paung choat-1999 (A Collection of Tin Moe’s Poems — 1999) (Blacktown, Australia: Alinga Publishing House, 2004); Sean O’Brien, “Bones Will Crow: 15 Contemporary Burmese Poets – review,” Guardian (February 8, 2018)]