Song Of Burma

Monastery time
is mandatory for all boys
in the country for a few years
To wear the orange robe
to rise at dawn to pray
and silently walk the streets
in ritualized panhandling
We tolerated it
We were the stars of travel brochures
that stoked Western fantasies of Eastern tranquility

Now we are high priests
in the religion of repression
The stereotyped stoic lips
of native americans
look different on us
Our condescending eyes
concealed by sunglasses
We’ve traded our robes for fixed bayonets
We rise to manage slavery and quash dissent

The transition was easy.
Darkness is not very far from light.
We defoliate the lotus garden,
vandalize the temple,
and hold memory under water
until it stops writhing
and sets us free

by Michael Philips

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