Monday, June 4, 2012

Remembering June 4th, 1989

During the seven week occupation of the square, art students created a statue,
"The Goddess of Liberty" to symbolize their democratic aspirations.
Today is the 23rd anniversary of the massacre of student protesters in Tiananmein Square.  Hundreds, possibly thousands of students and their supporters, who had occupied the square calling for peaceful democratic change, were killed by soldiers and police who opened fire on them with automatic rifles and machine guns.    The repression that followed resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of thousands of dissident students and intellectuals and the government launched a campaign to erase the memory of the horrific events of June 4th from the collective memory of the nation.  
The Chinese government to this day denies that the killings took place.

Every June 4th since 1989 the dissident poet and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo , (who is at present serving an eleven year prison sentence for his outspoken criticism of China's authoritarian leaders) , has written an elegy to those who were died on June 4th .

In this small way he has sought to keep the memory of the events of those days alive in the memory the Chinese people.  A bi-lingual edition of his "June 4th Elegies" has just been published in the United States.   As soon as I have a chance to see the book, I will share one of his elegies here.  In the meantime, I'd like to share with you a beautiful poem he wrote in 2000 from prison to his beloved wife.

One Letter Is Enough

for Xia

one letter is enough
for me to transcend and face
you to speak

as the wind blows past
the night
uses its own blood
to write a secret verse
that reminds me each
word is the last word

the ice in your body
melts into a myth of fire
in the eyes of the executioner
fury turns to stone

two sets of iron rails
unexpectedly overlap
moths flap toward lamp
light, an eternal sign
that traces your shadow

8. 1. 2000

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