When I am a mother
When I am a mother,
I will tie my daughter’s hands together
and press them to her lips.
She will learn to sing through her teeth
and beg a world forgotten.
I will tell her that down by the old banyan tree
her father swallowed three stray bullets
and made them part of him.
Tell her that mettle isn’t always what it looks like
or what it’s supposed to be.
When she tells me she will change the world,
I will take her to the muddy ripples
of the Irrawaddy and teach her
the meaning of a single droplet.
These girls are too used to monsoons,
to being too much too often.
What happens when the drought
settles on their skin,
when rainwater tastes like vinegar
and dust is breath to choke on?
When I have a daughter
I will baptize her in this country’s blood,
drench her from head to toe
so she never dreams of escape.
When the earth is in her bones
and these sorrows in her gums
I will give her betel nut to chew.
She will count each feathered crow
that soars over the Shwedagon
and find no poetry. Find no song.
She will look and know.