Samizdat in Blood

I hope you will tell people in the future about this suffering.”

—Lin Zhao, imprisoned poet who, legend has it, pricked
her wrists with bamboo and wrote in blood


That summer, the revolution was a litany.
We chanted because we believed our god
could hear us, he whose bootsteps stamped
our mud with his red imprimatur,

his seed—blossoming before our eyes,
fruits and flowers and the fragrance
of a new tomorrow. We had eaten bitterness,
but now we feasted on joy, drank hope.

Who knew sound was like water,
that it would spill out of auditoriums
whose walls could not contain human nature.
One ocean wave breaks, but bundle them…

The auditorium. After we—we
because psychological torture is a group effort—
affixed a wood plate to his spine, our words
bruised him to the nail bed of his toes.

Thousand-year gold but no thousand-year-old noble!
Extermination of mosquitoes, weeds, and landlords!

We breathed spittle and brandished our fingers
like spears. The physical pain came later
in the dusty courtyard, newly paved,

the deep purple pulsing vein of his forehead
a target for rocks. Perhaps death
happened then. Perhaps later,

near the river, when we kicked his leg,
the good one unbent from years in the fields
of his father and his father’s father.

The land graciously received him,
walked him into water, which turned
to shit. Clean it, the six or so dozen of us
commanded. Eat it.


Soap does more than clean.
Bamboo can record history,
and by sheer will

a human being
can refute it,

even her own.
In case this was not clear,
let me write it

in blood
with the red star of
my heart

my life

in case
not clear

go ahead         
read it
the stain of suffering



Read another —>

First published in Prairie Schooner, Spring 2015