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Golden Flesh / Shout, Shouk, Lemon / Generational Marrow / Seasons

by Kimberly Zin (poetry) and Justin Lee (art)

This poetry is part of the special series "Through the Light Holes" in collaboration with Myanmar Photo Archive.

Poem 1: Golden Flesh

mangoes hang like the fists of a girl

afraid of falling off the branch—

flimsy yet just supple enough

to support and hold her until

she matures and r i p e n s with sweet nectar,

ready to



on her own only to




l into the palms

of a man who scrutinizes

her in every which way,

i n h a l i n g her luscious bouquet

and sampling the d r i p p i n g juices

from her a m p l e flesh

before he deems her incapable

of sating his thirst, for he sees

she is bruised from her




l and too

fibrous and too acerbic, as he

hungers for something more delicate

and docile to the tongue that yields

and quivers to his ဘုန်း without the

repugnant aftertaste of insurgent resistance

Poem 2: Shout, Shouk, Lemon

our backyard lemon tree

always bears more fruit than

we can make use of its bounty

when i was younger

i bit into lemon wedges

to stave off the hunger

coming from the insides

of my bowels, screaming

to be released in tides

what i believe to be true

is that sour and sweet

both share the same view

but over and over i keep

choosing the caustic acid,

maybe it’s what i reap

from the seeds sowed

by foremothers who have

painstakingly plowed

with arduous aspiration

for a source of strength, only

their cultivation is my vexation

my mother tells me that we

mustn’t waste the sweet ones,

for we simply can’t be carefree

but i am irked and irate,

constantly working without

any sip of respite to sate

that fermenting indignant rumble

of yearning for breath, knowing

that any longer and i crumble

yet i dare not touch nor crave

the fruit we have in abundance,

governed by mentality to save

when i am mother i know

my child will pick our lemons

and be the first to forgo

the dreadful life of submission

and my child will savor the taste,

walking in life without reservation

Poem 3: Generational Marrow

Picture roots in your mind and imagine:

sturdy strong bones growing

into murky waters, taking hold

in the deep dark recesses so icy

so that the lotus may ever more

bloom as the bones burrow

deeper desperately digging in mud

for foundation for stability for familiarity

as the bud breathes and buzzes

with winds of excitement, unfurling

its radiant elegance in sun-kissed glory

being what the bones could not

imagine but know in their core

that they must latch on stronger the more

the blossom glows, for fear of letting go.

Poem 4: Seasons

၁။ Dry Monsoon ဆောင်းရာသီ

I remember my first time

was shrouded in shame;

quiet and uncelebrated,

its only souvenir: segregated

laundry bins as subtle


Thirteen years later, my cycles

are still irregular and so few

that mom says something must

be wrong with me and bothers

the doctor constantly to ask

for ultrasounds for blood tests.

Query for our elders—

what is more pure than

a babe born of mother’s

unblemished blood?

၂။ Intermonsoon နွေရာသီ

မေမေ always says

a woman is at her prime

prior to marriage but

valueless if unable to bear

child for no sane man would waste

time tending to infertile land.

Rice paddies are submerged

in water and nurtured to feed

starved nations parched

without the water of life,

of growth, of nourishment

needed to nurse the masses.

When I am twenty-two I have bled

enough times to foresee four days

of feverish chills, bedridden with pain,

fatiguing myalgias: the maiden’s malady.

၃။ Rainy Monsoon မိုးရာသီ

In medical school I learn we

inherit mitochondria from our

mothers and wonder if I am

bequeathed the same turmoil and

unrest gifted to my mother from

hers, if I too am destined to suffer in kind.

A woman worth her weight

in blood must mourn losses

unknown to others, of identity,

of career, of liberty because

she can only choose to elope

men to escape from men.

How dare he decree her so sullied

when he who is here immaculate;

birthed from her own home

and sustained with her essence?

About the poet and the artist:

Kimberly Zin is a Burmese American currently in her 4th year of medical school at Touro University California. Justin Lee is also a Burmese American, and currently works in biotech. The two are cousins who spent the greater parts of their childhoods together in Southern California bonding over mutual interests, running the gamut from gastronomy to literature.

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