A Hero

These are the weathered shoes worn by the Jew,
So cracked from all the miles walked since he fled.
These are the slave’s strong legs like trunks that grew
And worked so hard until he’s beaten dead.
This is the heart of Christians who’re hemmed in
By beasts, while Romans laugh at them and yell.
These poisoned lips of Socrates destined
To die, and yet in virtue ever dwell.

This banner is the shield of Spartan men
Outnumbered by a thousand foes to one;
Its moral words in Chinese: Zhen-Shan-Ren*
Are spears of truth that no one can outrun.

The Falun Gong man now before you stands,
A hero for all times and for all lands.

*Zhen-Shan-Ren: Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance, the three main principles of the peaceful spiritual practice, Falun Gong, which is banned and persecuted in China.


On My Poor Chinese

After John Milton

When I am sitting in a meeting long
Where Chinese words evade my sluggish mind,
I feel a failure of the dumbest kind:
My clunky words mean nothing, right nor wrong;
My thoughts like misheard lyrics to a song,
“Is it shí or shǐ, I’m not sure,” I’m blind
And losing meaning’s glimmer grow resigned
To Daydream’s foggy melodies sing along.

The gracious Translator remembers me
And shares a glimpse of the inspiring view:
The plan that seems impossible advanced
Against a huge and evil enemy.
It hits me then: “There’s much to learn and do,”
And all my senses buzz and grow enhanced.


The Giant

(Time Warner Cable Cuts Independent Chinese Channel )

There is a giant on whose back we ride—
And by my “we” our civilization I mean—
Such that if he falls down or hurts his side
We face collapse, an awkward bloody scene.

Who is this mammoth man we owe so much?
I don’t know, just that I wish he’d keep still!
He wiggles a lot and threatens our clutch
I wonder if soon he’ll finally spill!

He doesn’t like when we tighten our grip;
His collar gets wrinkled, which ticks him off;
He wants us each to relax for the trip—
I tell you this so we’ll be better off.

Now you, Time Warner, help loosen the grip
That Red China has, so we all don’t slip.


Evan Mantyk is a high school English teacher living in the Hudson Valley of New York.

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18 Responses

  1. Carol Smallwood

    Enjoyed the poems and would like to know what type they are? There used to be a reliable website with definitions of formal poetry which isn’t around anymore. Do you know of a good one?

  2. Neal Dachstadter

    Three gems; the second is a fine combination of creativity and approximation.

  3. Damian Robin

    Thanks for the uplifting , humourous (the UK spelling) and informative verse.

    The article linked with the third poem – The Giant – is disturbing. Time Warner Cable had 17 Chinese language TV stations in the US. How odd that the one it has severed because of a business dispute is the only one not kowtowing to the regime in China.

    The remaining 16 are (according to the article) “either mouthpieces for the Chinese regime, strongly influenced by it, or toe the line in more subtle ways—the movie channels, for instance, that would never screen “Seven Years in Tibet”.”

    Great that we can be passed on to these issues of freedom by poetry. Can anyone find any other info on this situation of NTD tv in New YorK? The article was from June 30.

      • Damian Robin

        Thanks for quick reply, Evan. I have not found anything more.
        BTW I’m replying late as I forgot to tick the ‘Notify me of follow-up comments by email.’ box. :^/

  4. Daniel Magdalen

    Very good and dynamic sonnets! Capturing the contemporary world stage in but a few lines of touching poetry is something really rare.

  5. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    This is exactly the kind of unity of grammar and structure that Boileau had in mind when he said “le sens coupant les mots,” the sense cutting the verses, shall we say. Technically excellent poems, but not merely that. These are full of meaning. We see love, death, and the passage of time, so there is, indeed lyricism. But Mr. Mantyk has also demonstrated the adaptability of the sonnet to a large and expansive satire of human life in its relation to global politics and China, I think in the most powerful possible way and certainly in the most original way.

  6. John Kolyav

    Three well-crafted poems! The first and the third attracted me more. The last one, rich in symbolism is a classical one while “A Hero” is very powerful and effective poem. Expression and conclusion are splendid. It is high time for international communities to wake up!

  7. Tomás Ó Cárthaigh

    I enjoyed how the concept of the oppressed in generations before is tied in with the current trials of the Falun Gong.

    As for the third, if Red China falls, the manufacturing capacity of the world will take a massive hit and prices will skyrocket. We should be careful what we wish for…

    • Evan

      The third is the worst of the three because of its ambiguity. It is meant to say only that China should loosen its grip lest it jeopardize the underlying values of human civilization which has some form of collective sentience (the giant) and thus sense of right and wrong.


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