Burma Reds (poem)

red bagan IIBricks from the 9th century onward,

the shape of pagodas and temples

throughout the whole of ancient Bagan.

strewn bricks IIModern bricks, careful rectangular stacks

surpassing my own height, on display

before every third or eighth roadside establishment.

Or in piles, waiting to be used,

already used and crushed.

This country is frenzy of construction, visible at street level,

evidenced by cranes dotting the skyline.

Bricks the same color as the soil,

dusty in places, rocky in others,

source of clay, ground in which

this all-around lushness grows.

image1-1Like the supposed saffron of the monks’ robes,

all crease, drape, and fold.

This hue seems more crimson,

but what does it matter?

Fact is, there is an abundance of colors,

from rusty brown to deep goldenrod,

not to mention pink, morning mendicants all.

shwedagon umbrella buddha

There is the deep wooden red, perhaps mahogany,

of the umbrella Buddhas, four of them,

hidden in a cylindrical pagoda,

just off the beaten path at Shwedagon:

I was mezmorized.

Perhaps most enthralling is the betel nut red,

found juicy in the recent spit

of the pedestrian walking just ahead of you,

as well as its dried cousin on every ground surface possible,

forget not also in the crevices

between the teeth of the smiling

cab driver or tea house operator

or just about anyone from here.

betelnut spit

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