Wen Yiduo – Tiananmen

From Stagnant Water and Other Poems (review here), republished with permission from BrightCity Books.

Tiananmen

Son of a bitch! Now I’m really scared!
I can’t keep my two legs from shaking.
Look, look, it’s catching up. No? Then
why the hell d’you think I’m still running?
Mister, let me catch my breath.
Can’t you see it? Horrible, that mob’s a monster,
pitch-black, without a head, stumbling,
yet it keeps waving banners, shouting…
People can’t make a wage; you can’t blame ‘em.
It’s the living who suffer; to hell with the dead!
But they keep holding rallies, lying!
Whose families are they from anyway?
They’re just kids. What do they think they’re doing?
Ain’t their skulls being cracked by rifle butts?
Mister, I heard more were killed yesterday,
And more goddamn students were among them.
This year there’s been lots of crazy stuff.
These students got plenty to eat!
Last year they killed my uncle at a peasant uprising.
He had t’enlist in the army or he would’a starved!
Who’d let his life go to crap for nothing?
I ain’t lying. I ain’t told one my whole life; I just put
a couple coins worth of oil into my lamp, a whole ladleful!
Yet I run and run and can’t see the road.
No wonder the city bosses are scared to death,
tell everyone not to go to Tiananmen at night.
How can a poor rickshaw puller get a fare,
when Beijing’s filled with the dead?

Wen Yiduo (1899-1946) was born to a well-to-do Hubei family and studied in the United States from 1922-25 before returning to China, where he was gunned down on June 6, 1946. Mao blamed the Nationalists, thus securing Wen’s place in the revolution.

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