Fifteen Years of Darkness
Before dawn at home in Beijing, 6/4/2004
Fifteenth anniversary offering for 6/4
15 years ago a massacre took place at daybreak I died then was reborn 15 years have passed daybreak bayonets dyed red is still a blade fixed in the eyes 15 years have passed I still have nightmares of those departed souls I see them soaked with blood I write each stroke each line as an outpouring of the tomb 15 years have passed within the darkness of vanished freedom I wait for the hour-hand to point to pre- dawn's advent of the fifteenth anniversary offering Tonight, in this city without altar I hope the dead souls can see my eyes and turn my watchful gaze into the flicker of a candle flame Not the sacrificial spirit money for the ancestors not the raging blaze that illuminates the cold night but memory's nakedness is like a bone that will not decay 15 years ago martial-law troops besieged the Square the military broadcast the order over and over, a continuous transmission of gunshots and bloodthirsty news A few hours before the gathering crowds, the clamoring crowds then in a blink the light was extinguished people fled like a surge of quicksilver leaving behind an empty void Among the hunger-strike tents on the Monument I gathered with the students and local residents continuous gunshots rang out bullets struck the Monument sparks sprayed off the marble I released an eye-flooding flash broke an automatic rifle in half though I can't break open the silence of the dark night Facing an unpredictable fate I stare dumbly into the darkness unable to discern if the starlight abyss is hell or paradise 15 years have passed unexpected bloodshed has suffocated me unexpected prisons have hardened me I've become a thick stone yield to the lashings of political terrors expression hardened, frozen always unchanged From the massacre's bloodshed to harsh surveillance the horrors of that night have yet to move half-a-pace away After the house-raid then handcuffs after handcuffs then prison after prison then the police sentry at my building's gate A personal shadow interrogates our houseguests Phones tapped mail vetted all forms of communication cut off Let me turn into a blind-and-deaf man in the dark dark night to resist the silence Walls of a cell may confine the body but no cell walls can restrain the soul 15 years have passed a murderer's regime forces one to desperation A nation that tolerates a murderous regime and forgets the killed forces one to deeper desperation A survivor of the massacre powerless to demand justice for the victims forces one to the deepest desperation But in such desperation remembering the departed spirits is the only hope left Let the darkness transform into rock across the wilderness of my memory
From June Fourth Elegies by Liu Xiaobo. Copyright © 2012 by Liu Xiaobo and Jeffrey Yang. Reprinted with permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.
Liu Xiaobo, known for his human rights activism in China, was the author of the poetry collection June Fourth Elegies (Graywolf Press, 2012).
Date Published: 2012-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/fifteen-years-darkness