Poems of Tin Moe, Prince Claus Laureatus 2004

March 2005 -

Presentation at the Prince Claus Fund, 24 February 2005

 The Great Guest (1959)

Cigar's burnt down
The sun is brown
Will somebody take me home?


Desert Years (1976)

a strand of grey hair
a decade gone

In those years
the honey wasn't sweet
mushrooms wouldn't sprout
farmlands were parched

The mist hung low
the skies were gloomy
Clouds of dust
on the cart tracks
Acacia and creepers
and thorn-spiral blossoms
But it never rained
and when it did rain, it never poured

At the village front monastery
no bells rang
no music for the ear
no novice monks
no voices reading aloud
Only the old servant with a shaved head
sprawled among the posts

A the earth
like fruit too shy to emerge
without fruit
in shame and sorrow
glances at me
When will the tears change and
the bells ring sweet?


Meeting with the Buddha (2000)

Not for anything in particular
even me the very Buddha
along with other antiques
they've put up for sale
here in Europe,
they have such a sharp eye for business
what business brings you here?
asks the Buddha

You may not know it
but if you were in Burma
you would surely receive
all kinds of veneration,
telling only untruths and preaching only falsehoods
Your Holiness would exclaim "Buddha!"
and long to flee
Telling untruths
you tire yourself out
on the rounds of births
A scandal to the whole world
the generals delivering all kinds of orders
engaging in all kinds of impropriety
what if they bind you hand and foot
and put you under lock and key?

These hare-brained guys
don't know the truth
they don't keep promises
all kinds of lies
come out of their foul mouths
they have no respect for the nation
with their childish mentality
they're too dirty

An army exists to oppress the people
who flatter them
they ask them to sharpen the swords
it's a haven for thugs
the king of the master gangsters
Bo Ne Win's army
only knows how to shoot and cheat

The people are paupers now
the monks are beggars now
The scoundrels are monsters
weapons matter most
weapons are paramount
weapons reign supreme that's militarism

For you
to sit in peace
here in a European supermarket
is much safer
far from all the mishaps
fame growing a million-fold
and the name Buddha bandied about
don't feel uncomfortable

With all the crimes of the Burmese military
the Buddha will never leave prison
will always be in trouble
then you'll really be uncomfortable.
Don't think such an ignoramus as me
was lecturing you
I've come to think like this
because so many lay disciples in my country
have been victimized
excuse me,
Venerable Sir!

Translated by Anna J. Allott