Two and a Half Millions Each Year One Footstep Every Twelve Seconds
Poster No.1: 4 x Virgin
A girl pleading helplessly is a single brush stroke.
The pale blue eyes are vacant.
The future fades into the foreground with a silk dress.
Life ends repeatedly with fears and agonies.
A portrait of another dark night
Hangs on the wall of a night that can’t be any darker.
|When night falls, they come here to buy virginity.
They come to buy virginity and good luck.
Good luck will bring good news, babies, wealth and more good luck to them, they believe.
The gentle man who has come to buy me for one night
Is siting in my room right now.
I was sold at the age of 10 when my puberty started.
I have been sold as a virgin for three times.
They know their market.
They fix my genitals to meet the market demands.
Tonight is my fourth night as a virgin.
–A Cambodian girl, Cambodia
Poster No.2: Ghost Worker
The sea is raging like an angry demon.
A red storm may start any time and sinks human lives under water.
The boy feels powerlessness in his tough jaw.
Voices boil in the dead imagery of resentment.
There’s no shore in sight, and there’s no future.
Dawn opens like a red flower doused in blood.
|At the border, the flesh traders rip apart our hopes.
They treat us like dogs.
We are forced to sign contracts
That will keep us on trawlers for years.
In this human hell, we are not allowed
To go back to land, not even once every three months.
Just me and my plastic life jacket in the middle of nowhere.
I dare not take a chance because I can see my soul
Trembling at the muzzle of the skipper’s gun.
They kick me off the deck, beat me at will and lock me up.
Now I sit in a dark container, forgotten like a ghost.
I don’t know how many weeks I will be gone.
–A Myanmar migrant worker, Thailand
|Before I left Nigeria,
They took me to a fake voodoo ritual.
My nails were cut,
My hair was plucked,
And my clothes were ripped.
The fire of black magic was crackling.
There were a chicken, a demonic mask,
Two swords and walnuts.
I was scared to death.
If you don’t give me my agent fees,
You will die a horrible death.
These words frightened me every night.
They said I would get a decent job in Italy.
But now I am lost like a stray dog.
And I could only give them 11,000 euros for their fees.
They broke my father’s legs and sent me death threats.
I’ve been so frightened that I’ve run out of fears.
I will revenge them with black magic.
–A Nigerian woman, Italy and France
Poster No.4: Behind Closed Doors
I am alive yet dead.
My body and soul are covered in calluses like my palms.
My life has shrunk, so much so that I don’t exist anymore.
Every morning, hopes die.
Where my home is, I can no longer tell.
Life and heartache burn to ashes behind closed doors.
|I am a maid twenty-four hours a day.
My host watches me all the time with distrust.
She calls me a thief and hits me often.
I have spent many nights with little or no food.
I am not allowed to call home or go outside.
There’s a long list of things that I am forbidden to do.
All I get for this is 50 cents per day.
The host says she will send the rest of my salary to my family.
I know she is lying.
I am just a slave for her.
–An Indian woman, Dubai
Poster No.5: Someone’s Mother, Sister and Daughter
With this little speck of light, dawn cannot break.
I try to put up with this darkness because it won’t get any darker than this.
The reek of days and nights makes me want to puke up my entire life.
The slimy golden brown laughter and smiles make me want to empty my body.
Let me just start my life over again, so it can be white as a swan.
|I don’t think there can be anybody like him.
What did he exactly find in my dead eyes?
He came with a name card and said, “I will help you.”
He didn’t touch me at all; he just left after giving me the card.
I don’t think there can be anyone like him.
I am broken, and I am trapped.
I feel so small, and I am hurt.
I’ve been taken and sucked dry against my wish.
I’ve started to see myself as filth.
I think he saw what I felt about myself.
I am thankful, but how can I get away from all this?
I am broken beyond repair.
My existence is in the hands of somebody else.
Even if I want to pick up the pieces of my life,
I don’t know how.
–A Bulgarian Woman, France
The author truly hopes you could hear in these poems many more voices than what the words could convey — the voices from 30 million people who have fallen prey to modern-day slavery.
20 October 2013
The author got the text of this poem from the posters on display at Central Plaza, Singapore, with the title “Bought and Sold (Voices of Human Trafficking).”
Translated from the Burmese by Maung Day
– From Eaindra’s bilingual poetry collection A Poem Writes A Woman (long poems, translated into English by Maung Day, 2017)