Aung San Suu Kyi, house arrest
What they don't know is that I'm just a person.
This skin is only skin, this body full of
blood and water, the bone that aches at eight
o'clock – no great light streaming from the sky,
no monument. I am not I – not the
fearsome woman that they name on BBC,
not even little Suu Kyi, the general's daughter.
Sometimes I see this life as through a keyhole.
When sun leaks through the latticework
and spots the parlor floor, I eat what I can hold;
in the dry season, I drink cold tea and read for
several hours. I think reasonable things, if not heroic.
They might expect something patriotic,
something more than the hot wind and
the textures of bamboo and teak that
my fingertips have memorized.
But this house is any house,
this country, any country.
I was only back to see my sickly mother
when the strongmen's order aged and fell. And when
they arrested most of us, but offered me
a chance to leave my filthy cell, I stayed.
It seemed the natural thing to do,
to stick with what you started.
And once more there's the smell of wood and stucco,
the mangoes hanging just beyond my reach.
There is no point in going back; democracy
became a second spouse, once my
first had died away. The future is this simple:
I will stay as long as it takes,
and go when I can go.
But I am not here, some woman's body is.
When I clean myself, I look again in
the little mirror, and there she is—
the pale face, aging slightly, the hair still black as ever.
Each year is slightly different, and yet not.
Last spring, they let
a UN undersecretary, a kind Nigerian, come
and see me for an hour. We drank coffee.
One year later, our talk grows still
and distant, like a feature on the moon.
Last time, they let me out so that the doctors
could remove my dangerous womb.
And I rested here, sexless, childless, the two
old men who used to be my sons away in Europe.
Outside one window, I see the petals of
a blood-red rhododendron, like a small piece
of the enormous, freakish trees
I remember seeing in the mountains.
Softly, softly, it reminds me of the things
I would blissfully forget: you have a family. You are in Burma.
Some of my supporters, as they say,
in Canada, would pity me to see
this house, its elbowed staircase, or the vista
of this tiny yard ending in barbed wire.
But really, all of us are trapped inside
our houses, waiting for the key to turn.
And in the gaping silence of New Year's Day,
when they clear the street, I am also quiet;
I lie here, in the muffled light, waiting
to hear the screeching of the gate,
to be carried away from this life.