marcel barang

Pity poor Siriworn

In English, Reading matters on 03/07/2013 at 8:41 pm

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siriworn berlinwallbangkokOut of the 101 Thai collections of poems competing this year for the SEA Write Award, the 18-strong pre-selection just announced ignores Siriworn Kaewkan’s Berlin Wall in Bangkok superb offering. Since the prize was devised in 1979, the man holds the absolute record of far and near misses, be it for poems, short stories or novels.

But then, what was he thinking? A title like this, merely two years after the bamboo-and-tyre danse du feu in downtown Bangkok when ashes blister the carpet, ambers are still glowing and nobody appears to be the wiser, amounts to a provocation. Or does it? You be the judge. Here is the main chant.

The Berlin Wall in downtown Bangkok (1)

Barbed wire fence and concrete wall
Popped up in downtown Berlin
Dividing wind and sunshine in Germany
Dividing sunshine and wind in the twentieth century
Turning an ideal concrete
Penning a people, cleaving them in two
A proud communist government
Put Rousseau’s saying to good use
Man is born free
And everywhere he is in chains

Fog and flowers
Were turned into criminal daydreams
Idealism and class consciousness
Became sacred truths
Citizens became forbidden scriptures
Even God could not mess with

Man is born in chains
So the world over seeks freedom
Some groups thus turned to planting flowers
To sell to those men on watchtowers
To worship all godly proctors
For them not to fall into hardship
For them not to fall from on high
And turn commoners cursed with planting flowers

Fog and flowers
Criminal daydreams of the twentieth century
When the Berlin Wall in Germany
Was smashed to pieces
The world saw the truth on the other side of the wall
Idealism and class consciousness
The dream of sacred truths
Became even more of a daydream

Slowly took shape in downtown Bangkok
The Berlin Wall of the twenty-first century
Dividing sunshine and wind in the Chao Phraya basin
Dividing darkness and light in our hearts

With one brick per man
Piled up on a foundation of hate
With one brick per man
Piled up on insanity
Nobody asked since when a wall was needed to get rid of classes

Known to all and plain to see
Man consents to keep churning power
Man consents to keep making mistakes
To write his own history
Even though he knows that ahead
When the wall is smashed
On the other side the truth stares at us*

* Adapted from a saying by Harold Pinter about a writer’s duty to smash mirrors.

The Berlin Wall in downtown Bangkok (2)

A good thing it is
We have yet another year to live
Too bad many people don’t have this minute to savour
Life is something marvellous
But love is even more so

A good thing it is
We have yet another year to live
Too bad many people don’t have this minute to savour
Dreaming is something marvellous
But reality is even more so

A good thing it is
We have yet another year to live
Too bad we are zanily snatching at light and shadow
Just in hopes of reaching a truer truth

A good thing it is
We have yet another year to live
What a shame we died off the Berlin Wall
That cropped up over smoke and flames
In downtown Bangkok

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