"Wish You Happy Every Day": An Expat's Life in China


“Massacre” by Liao Yiwu
June 10, 2015, 8:32 am
Filed under: 6/4, arts & literature, Chinese history | Tags: , ,

Last week was the 26th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, in which as many as 300-1,000 pro-democracy protesters were gunned down by the Chinese government. Many of them were students.

Because one does not talk about 6/4 in China, attempts to heal are stifled. In fact, many young people don’t even know about it, including about half of my students from last semester.

I’d like to share this spoken word poem, “Massacre”, a commemoration of the lives lost on 6-4 that got its author, Liao Yiwu, a cell in prison for four years. I first discovered it at Ai Wei Wei’s @Large exhibit, where it was being displayed. This is Liao’s performance at the New York Public Library from 2013.

And here is the English translation, as it appears in Liao’s book For a Song and a Hundred Songs:

Leap! Howl! Fly! Run!
Freedom feels so good!
Snuffing out freedom feels so good!
Power will be triumphant forever.
Will be passed down from generation to generation forever.
Freedom will also come back from the dead.
It will come back to life in generation after generation.
Like that dim light just before the dawn.
No. There’s no light.
At Utopia’s core there can never be light.
Our hearts are pitch black.
Black and scalding.
Like a corpse incinerator.
A trace of the phantoms of the burned dead.
We will exist.
The government that dominates us will exist.
Daylight comes quickly.
It feels so good.
The butchers are still ranting!
Children. Children, your bodies all cold.
Children, your hands grasping stones.
Let’s go home.
Brothers and sisters, your shattered bodies littering the earth.
Let’s go home.
We walk noiselessly.
Walk three feet above the ground.
All the time forward, there must be a place to rest.
There must be a place where sounds of gunfire and explosions cannot
be heard.
We so wish to hide within a stalk of grass.
A leaf.
Uncle. Auntie. Grandpa. Granny. Daddy. Mummy.
How much farther till we’re home?
We have no home.
Everyone knows.
Chinese people have no home.
Home is a comforting desire.
Let us die in this desire.
OPEN FIRE, BLAST AWAY, FIRE!
Let us die in freedom.
Righteousness. Equality. Universal love.
Peace, in these vague desires.
Stand on the horizon.
Attract more of the living to death!
It rains.
Don’t know if it is rain or transparent ashes.
Run quickly, Mummy!
Run quickly, son!
Run quickly, elder brother!
Run quickly, little brother!
The butchers will not let up.
An even more terrifying day is approaching.
OPEN FIRE! BLAST AWAY! FIRE! IT FEELS GOOD! FEELS SO
GOOD! . . .
Cry cry cry crycrycrycrycrycrycry

We stand in the midst of brilliance but all people are blind.
We stand on a great road but no one is able to walk.
We stand in the midst of a cacophony but all are mute.
We stand in the midst of heat and thirst but all refuse to drink.

In this historically unprecedented massacre only the spawn of dogs
can survive.