Ms. Wang Lixuan and her son, Meng Hao, were detained on Oct. 22, 2000. Mother and baby both died at the Tuanhe Forced Labor Dispatch Division in Beijing on Nov. 7, 2000. The coroner’s exam determined that Ms. Wang’s neck and fingers were broken, her skull was fractured, and she had a needle stuck in her lower back. Read more details here.

 

The child lies quiet. Quieter than the grave.
And still. A stillness that belongs to sleep
Where infants’ bodies do not misbehave.

His mother lies beside him, parallel,
Also still – too still to be asleep,
Their limbs just so, so neat, laid out so well.

Their poses shaped by someone else’s will
Who did not try to make them seem asleep,
Just not too bloody mangled – done with skill.

Yet though their clothes are placed back on their legs,
Although their eyes are closed as though in sleep,
On clotted feet and ankles are the dregs

Of metal manacles and scrapes in skin
So sinew-deep the wearer could not sleep
Unless unconscious; but they don’t breath in.

When they were breathing, both hung upside-down,
The mother manacled, the baby tied,
The skirt and clothing dangling, hanging down,

Their hair on end towards the pooling ground,
Each dropped hair thinner than the rope that tired,
Than the chain that chained. Yet they are bound

More hard than strings of DNA or love
Or twined umbilical that once had tied,
So deep inside, below the push and shove

Of daily strive, of health’s mechanicals,
Of needs to which all humankind is tied
With better knowledge than mere animals.

And then the backwards movement of the blood
Downwards to the heads – and there it paused
Or broke through broken skin, or made a flood

In nostrils til those fonts would, breathless, clot.
Can we, right now, take in these deaths and, paused,
Consider what inhuman, demon plot

This single couple’s persecution took?
There’s no snuff movie footage to be paused,
No rewind showing human meat and hook,

No reasoning, except we know the cause
Was adamantine will to keep belief,
To not give up on universal laws,

Of Truth, Compassion, Tolerance, the core
Of Falun Gong; not let a spirit thief
Rip out two souls without which there’s no more,

No more life, no mother and no child,
No more conscience, nothing except grief
And mindless fragmentation in the wild.

 

Damian Robin is a writer and editor living in the United Kingdom.
 

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13 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    Gut-wrenching and yet beautifully done.
    It must have been extremely difficult to write.
    Thank you Damian.

    Reply
    • Amy Foreman

      I agree with Joe, Damian. No one who reads this poem will soon forget this horrendous, sickening crime against two innocents. God have mercy.

      Reply
  2. Jenni Wyn Hyatt

    A graphic description of an unspeakable atrocity against the innocent, a poem which is both horrifying and moving.

    Reply
  3. Lu "Reed ABCs" Wei

    Though in one of their propaganda rap videos, China claims “red dragon ain’t no evil”; many, like Mr. Robin, remind us that the government itself frequently is criminal.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Thanks Mr Lu Reed – you seem to have slipped my vision so you’re not addressed in the message below. However, you are right the red dragon makes it believable that it’s not evil-ill and does have might and money and army kitted out in fancy blow-up stuff that seems to shout “dont mess with us you narrow wuss becos becos becos we is mighty dangerous and we is like an animal run in a hole with haunches up and hackles on top and shoulders lowered and lips back glowered for teeth jaw-powered and a silent roar that’s a threat in a drawer and front limbs grounded and paw-pads pounded and sharp claws rounded on dust astounded to be scrapped and ploughed into a cloud around your pastsy tasty crowd – we’re ready ready ready breathkilling ready to take down any dissenter’s eddy that isn’t ready to back off us or back us up or take our word our piece of mind become our herd increase our kind for at the back of this hole is the back of our mind that’s scared scared scared for all we have infered is power is power not principles no higher aimed invincibles no claims to anything but power – power power power – fear and power and fear of losing power … “ My, my, my, how this red dragon drags on with its evil con

      Reply
  4. Damian Robin

    Thanks very much, Joe, Amy and Jenni. There are a few things that made the writing palatable. One is that I was working with this painting above in mind. A work of art is already a filter. As mentioned in the poem,
    “Their poses shaped by someone else’s will
    Who did not try to make them seem asleep,
    Just not too bloody mangled – done with skill.”
    the artist has chosen to make a calm and beautiful image and ameliorate the violence and gore, though we know the suffering is there.

    A second is that this happened a long time ago. The facts have settled and, at the time, many people around the world were commenting and signing petitions. Time doesn’t heal but it helps. The commenting and petitioning did not stop the brutality in China.

    Thirdly, I have been involved for some time with the issue of repression by the Chinese Communist Party. This poem comes out of that background so it is not difficult to write about as it is isolating one incident in the mass of suffering going on now. (One point of recent information is http://en.minghui.org/html/articles/2018/4/26/169492.html What might happen to these people may be similar to what happened to Ms Wang and her son.)

    But generally, with a facility to write and knowing some facts from other people and about other people, the necessity of writing these kinds of things makes the actual writing less difficult.

    And, knowing (from your comments) that my “message” comes through, and may help the situation, is heartening. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Thank you Mr Harris. I think it is the nature of the people who resist torture because they want to remain truthful, compassionate, and tolearant, that makes it possible to pull off powerful and beautiful poems on these subjects. There must be majesty and magnificence in the characters, the protagonists, the way they persevere, and what they persevere for.
      I appreciate you taking time to make your omment.

      Reply
  5. David Hollywood

    A dreadfully upsetting description of a terrible happening which leaves me feeling morose, yet all in all an event it is absolutely necessary to know about. Marvelously presented and important to read and absorb and thank you for this poem. Poetry like this has an appropriate power that is sometimes beyond prose’s ability to describe and appropriately spares none of the readers sensitivities. Well done.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Thanks, David. I hope you don’t mind that I put a similar reply to the one below to David Watt below.

      You mention feeling morose but feel it is necessary to know of this event. I am glad you are able to say this. This seems an appropriate response to the present vicious chaos in the world right now.

      It is particularly the events in China that engender the strongest reactions in good people; the evil is hidden in plain view. Governments and other rulers don’t act. It’s not that they act inappropriately or make mistakes, as has happened in Syria for example, few respond.

      Such horror is happening in China, especially around Falun Gong. There are so many similar events of people being positively compassionate yet being tortured. It’s easy to feel defeated before starting. But I see that your mind is “sound and vigorous”, as Wordsworth points to in the clip from his Preface to Lyrical Ballads, this is necessary to appreciate poetry.

      “I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. In this mood successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on; but the emotion, of whatever kind, and in whatever degree, from various causes, is qualified by various pleasures, so that in describing any passions whatsoever, which are voluntarily described, the mind will, upon the whole, be in a state of enjoyment. If Nature be thus cautious to preserve in a state of enjoyment a being so employed, the Poet ought to profit by the lesson held forth to him, and ought especially to take care, that, whatever passions he communicates to his Reader, those passions, if his Reader’s mind be sound and vigorous, should always be accompanied with an overbalance of pleasure. ”

      Preface to Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth (1800)

      Reply
  6. David Watt

    The reader cannot help but be impacted emotionally by this poem. Although the subject matter is distressing, your well-written response succeeds in diminishing the pain.

    Reply
  7. Damian Robin

    Thanks, David. I hope you don’t mind that I put a similar reply to the David Hollywood, above.

    As this event happened long ago and I have become familiar with it, I have been able look at a lot of its sides including why I reacted to it as I did.

    I thought of the recalling emotion in tranquility stated by Wordsworth (see below). However, Wordsworth would not have had this kind of subject of contemplation in mind. He could not have been aware of the moral decay about to begin more than two centuries later. Nor could he have envisaged the far-reaching nature of the persecution of such a large number of good, kind, and peaceful people.

    When I reread his Preface to Lyrical Ballads,I saw the idea of ‘an overbalance of pleasure’ and ‘a state of enjoyment’ that I didn’t remember. I have been able to see the nobility of the situation of Ms Wang and her son. There is a sense of her goodness and otherworldiness that can be called a pleasure to contemplate. It is a joy in the acknowledgement of something greater than suffering or the reward of having suffering stop by denying one’s belief in higher principles.

    “I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind. In this mood successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on; but the emotion, of whatever kind, and in whatever degree, from various causes, is qualified by various pleasures, so that in describing any passions whatsoever, which are voluntarily described, the mind will, upon the whole, be in a state of enjoyment. If Nature be thus cautious to preserve in a state of enjoyment a being so employed, the Poet ought to profit by the lesson held forth to him, and ought especially to take care, that, whatever passions he communicates to his Reader, those passions, if his Reader’s mind be sound and vigorous, should always be accompanied with an overbalance of pleasure. ”

    Preface to Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth (1800)

    Reply
  8. James Sale

    Very powerful poem and very skilfully written; I particularly like your use of the sort of refrain you build up in each second line. And that final line – And mindless fragmentation in the wild. – is fabulous. Well done.

    Reply

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