Friday, November 16, 2012

Origin and Future

I've been reading a variety of articles about the leadership transition in China (the 18th Party Congress of the CCP is underway) and the positions of different leaders, including their support for liberalization/resistance to reform. In particular, this essay by Paul Monk, which makes some insightful historical allusions and references key Chinese intellectuals at the turn of the last century, provoked a reaction in me. I jotted these lines in response, as we await the ascendance of the new leadership:

A wellspring is memorial

Democrats hail from Thomas Jefferson,
the Republicans are the party of Lincoln.
You, leaders and adherents: whence came your Party?
Whose portrait hangs above your colonnades of gold and crimson?

Can you disavow the crimes of the past to begin anew?
Have courage! What pride is there in poisoned roots?
Or do you slink along with eyes firmly closed --
Set mute all tragedy! Dampen the truth!

Surrounded by memories in the streets assembling,
flooding the steps, the square is swelling.
With phantoms trailing in your wake,
pulse swiftly racing, you dash up the staircase 
-- and slam the door behind you.
Such is the portal to high office!

The ghosts do not disappear, but gather below
handfuls and hundreds outside your window.
Ones tens ten-thousands, deepen, upwell, 
the severals and scores become concerts and choruses.
It's an ocean of hope -- a broad, smooth sea
a wide river delta joined by many streams.

They lift misty eyes bright with
the iridescence of June morning, still shimmering from promises of May.
There once was spring ... 

They are not vengeful spirits, but martyred sons and daughters,
a stillborn dream, a dream still borne;
they will yet set you free!

They carry no hatchets in their sleeves,
they hide no garrotes in their pockets;
No sickles, no daggers,
no bullets or hammers;
only bright blossoms and streaming pens:
the poetry of lofted banners, the symphony of chained hands.

Take heart, for the streets do not run red.
They are filled with warbles of ev'ning song instead.
Beneath the gentle chatter, the shuffling gait of citizens on stroll,
the cobbles radiate the living patience -- the lifelong forbearance! -- of a gentle people.

Step down from such high places!
Open your heart to the melodies of day and night.
Prick your ears for a tune of utter freedom,
Hear our sacral song take flight.

for we will absolve you

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