Invisible Animals


In Burma, we call the military a buffalo.
But we don’t let them hear us.
                         -Taxi driver in Yangon

I pedal a rusty rental vintage Schwinn
from temple to stupa to temple, battling
a stomach bug caught after eating old meat
a local man had saved for a special occasion.
My guts awhirl, I skid to a stop, wave
at a farmer being pulled on a plow
by an ox, drop the bike and hurry to stoop
behind a bush. I undo my belt and stare skyward.
My eyes water and my body revolts,
a brief wave of relief between rounds.
With a cheek on a knee I see human bones—
a skull, a spine and other bleached sticks
draped in torn shirts with heavy buttons.
A hat nearby, scattered coins reflecting the sun.
My pants around my ankles, I look closer
but lose balance and step in my own shit.
In Bagan a doctor prescribes papaya.
He calls me a liar and tells me
I saw nothing but the bones of a buffalo.

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