The Dancing Peacock; Aung San Suu Kyi Poem

Amnesty International asked me to write a poem telling the story of Aung San Suu Kyi for a video animation to be shown to celebrate her recent trip to Britain. It had to tell her story and that of Burma and last no more than two minutes.  In the end, the event where the video would have been shown didn’t happen and they got the Burmese comedian and former political prisoner Zarganar to present it to her on a scroll instead. Peter Popham’s book “The Lady and The Peacock” was great source material and contains a reminiscence from one of her former campaign supporters about how everywhere they went, people would read them poems. You can have too many poems. I think the best use of this one would still be to summarise her story to those who don’t know it.


Dancing Peacock- The Story of Aung San Suu Kyi

Let the fighting peacock spread it’s fan,

as we start with the story of a Burmese man.

Their liberating founder, Aung San,

Midwife of democracy,

Father to the nation,

and to Aung San Suu Kyi.


Bogyoke’s remembered with statues,

on Martyr’s Day in summer rains,

in the hearts and minds of the Burmese people,

in the blood coursing through his daughter’s veins.


She was born as hope was seeded

in Rangoon in 1945,

but he was shot by political rivals,

before his country’s new independence could thrive.


Let the dancing peacock spread it’s tail,

How could such a fertile country fail?


Army leaders staged a coup,

made things worse in ’62.

No vote, no choice.

No say, no voice.


The family packed off to India,

a privileged ex-pat life,

then Oxford University, falling in love,

giving birth, becoming an “Oxford housewife”.


Back in Burma in 88 to nurse her mother

while students protested in the face of army attack.

They confronted her with her true destiny,

the General’s daughter who could never go back.


Let the fighting peacock show it’s eyes,

it’s bravery and beauty will surprise.


She spoke publicly and passionately of democracy,

of human rights and a multi-party state,

of non-violence, Gandhi, the need for unity,

electrified millions during 8/8/88.


She said words needed actions too,

free men were oppressed ones who kept on trying.

Spoke out under arrest and at gunpoint,

when her fellow campaigners were dying.

She married democracy and Burma,

gave birth to the party- the NLD

told the outside world the truth,

said absence of want and fear made people free.


Let the dancing peacocks feathers mass,

catch the light like splintered glass.


Even with most of the votes,

they were forbidden to take their seats,

hundreds of party members imprisoned,

victories treated as defeats.

During fifteen years of house arrest,

she followed the eight fold path,

won the Nobel Peace Prize, kept words and hope,

could still learn and love and laugh.


Gave up a chance to see her husband

one last time before he died,

kept the struggle going from a crumbling old house,

without her two sons by her side.


They said- you’re a fearless saint,

a Bodhisattva, an otherworldly bird of paradise.

She said, I’m human, just like you,

I’m not the only one who’s had to sacrifice.


Let the fighting peacock sound it’s cries,

beyond the captivity it’s call defies.


Monks came to Aung San Suu Kyi’s gate

during the uprising of the Saffron Revolution,

hundreds imprisoned and died,

the army imposed a new constitution.


But pressure had built, from without and within,

something had to give,

the urge for freedom, for equality, for choice,

for the lives the Burmese people deserve to live,


The Opposition Leader’s taken her seat,

but her struggle isn’t done,

she’s rallying the world to witness and act

until full human rights are won.


East and West meet in her,

oppositions dissolve and unite,

the spiritual, the political,

the interplay of the dark and the light.


Let the dancing peacock spread it’s tail,

those monsoon rains will never fail.