Karen English dictionary new with white and blue cover. Pages razor sharp and glistening in the sun. Raised spine and a loose jacket. I thumb through the pages seeking Kawthoolei, a state for us.
I: ethnic minority
Road building: a job
Karen: no rights
Hope: my children
Leather bound under the jacket. Pages even and whole. Printed in London. I look up words: ancestors, love, statehood, civil war.
Kawthoolei: the land burnt black
Rangoon: the secret police
House: tents in the forest
Jungle : teaching how to get home
I appear: you disappear
An old dictionary. Cover worn. Pages unthreaded, their corners battered with use. No binding. Unstuck spine.
Smugglers: human traffickers
Fleeing : paradise lost
I: political dissident
City: sprawling refugee camp carved into the mountain
shelter: a teak hut with thatched roof
playground: a muddied stream
Road: a dirt path
Food rations: American wheat
A dictionary falling apart. Pages torn. Words smudged. Still a companion. Frantic use of dog-eared pages. Like beads. Words like prayers, doves flying about.
I: political asylum seeker
Kawthoolei: land without evil
Aeroplane: carrier to safety
ah twa ter o bah: you’re welcome
da blu do ma law: thank you very much
Face: harm for relatives left behind
You disappear: I appear
Dictionary leather bound. Gilt edges, silk ribbon marker. Raised spine, gold embossed. Fifty years of age I go back to university restored dictionary in bag.