for Xiaoyao Yin and her UK family

Loud thumps were more than company;
__front door as thin as any.
Mum walked across the noise to see
__each thump enlarge to many.

Then clumps of feet clacked on our floors
__with yaps demanding logins
To access private data stores
__they’d claw into like dog bins.

Though Truth’s held high within my head,
__deep set, assimilated,
I hid my books inside my bed
__away from those who hated.
That night my naïve heart fell dead.
__My trust was confiscated.

My mother is exceptional;
__her parents had scant schooling,
Yet she was near the pinnacle
__of academic ruling

Before the persecution fell,
__before the mad negation
of Falun Dafa’s moral swell
__that moved the Chinese nation.

They rubber-stamped her “criminal,”
__Restrained her body tightly,
They boiled her meals to minimal,
__her sleep to hardly nightly,
But could not break the golden shell
__of righteousness lit brightly.

My dad was also Falun Gong.
__Then came the persecution.
Confusion followed deep and long.
__No help. No restitution.

Relentless hàrassing grew tough
__from TV, papers, neighbours.
Worn down by terror’s feats more rough
__than Hercules’s labours.

Without Forbearance, shrank and died
__in Evil unforgiving;
he bent, he broke, he stepped aside,
__he’s somewhere else and living.
The space between us far and wide—
__a torture rack unwitting.

My stepdad’s lost. All’s awkward, new
__as though he’s lost his purpose.
In China, there was lots he’d do.
__Out here he’s odd, a surplus.

He beat the state technology,
__cut right through blocks, diced danger,
Was locked up by the CCP,
__but here he’s just a stranger.

His English conversation’s crude
__so he earns basic wages
in Chinese kitchens, there preps food,
__repairs his life in stages,
Continuing what he’s pursued:
__the Truth passed down through ages.

I’m now a Scottish refugee.
__I prize my parents’ safety.
My ease with English kept us free
__and in a college lately.

Our family daily meditates;
__we heed an ancient calling.
Our spirit’s one that cultivates,
__that rises after falling.

Because we all are refugees,
__For home we’re always longing
But also build identities
__And soon find new belonging.
Amid life’s harsh realities
__the Good alike are thronging.



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

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18 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    This is a poem that everyone with eyes to see and ears to hear will take unreservedly to heart.
    It says it all, and it’s coming to a country near every single one of us.

    • Damian Robin

      Thanks Joe. You are right to bring up the extension of this scenario and many posting here agree.

      My first attempt at writing about this family was


      Though savaged skin has stuck and scared,
      torn muscle joined and matted,
      Though shattered bones are bonded hard,
      new blood replaced what spattered,

      Though locks away from torture’s key,
      from slavery’s knuckling tables,
      Though seeming safe from jeopardy
      of organ losses’ labels,

      You’ve found here, too, that Truth is cracked,
      distorted with denying,
      That to survive most make a pact
      in line with Marxist lying,
      So bad is best, and false is fact
      and true good Souls are dying.

      Thanks for being on the side of vigilant sanity, Joe.

      • Joe Tessitore

        Your first effort was equally powerful.

        Once your eyes are opened for you, how do you close them?
        How do you turn away?
        Is it really possible to turn away?

  2. Sally Cook

    This poem gives a very vivid picture of what is coming here. Joe sees it; hope many others take heed. Thank you, Damian.

    • Damian Robin

      Thanks, Sally, glad you’re carrying a light on this. I’d become so dispirited by Trump’s disappearance behind the Biden lines of lies that I’m lackluster in looking at a lot of looming great global glooming unless it perks me personally — as I know this lady and her family, it brings the bigger beleagueredness of life closer. Good to know others are still vigilant about the loss-of-liberty stakes in our back(ward)yards and are willing to give the shout.

  3. Gail

    As in China, the loudest and–seemingly–most powerful are not truly the majority. The main difference? Here, disenfranchisement is still a choice.

    • Damian Robin

      Thanks for saying that, Gail. A choice that needs constant work. But encouraging that you have pointed this out.

  4. Margaret Coats

    Heart-wringing end to the first stanza, Damian, but you go on to depict (repeatedly in each stanza) the resilience of the young girl you are writing about. Pleasant, too, to see her self-portrait with lotus. Good work that covers so much in a simple, direct style.

    • Damian Robin

      Thanks, Margaret. To cover a definition first. And to bang it like a pot or pan out in the open : can a “stanza” include line spaces/returns?

      They are a resilient family. Also, you mention the lotus. Xiaoyao’s mum has changed her ‘name’ or tag on one of communion apps to 淨蓮 Jìng lián meaning pure lotus. I know she’s read your comment, so maybe you are influencing her. :^)

      • Margaret Coats

        One could refer to your numbered portions of the poem as “sections,” but they fit the definition of stanza from the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetics. “A stanza is a basic structural unit in verse composition, a sequence of lines arranged in a definite pattern of meter and rhyme scheme which is repeated throughout the work.” Your repeated sequence of lines is 14 lines long, including two line spaces in each. And since the smaller portions of 4 lines or 6 lines do not repeat regularly, they are not stanzas. In this situation, the important thing is to speak clearly about structure, so I probably should have said “your first 14-line stanza” and “each of your 14-line stanzas” to be clear.

  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Damian, you always manage to bring the cruelty of the CCP to the fore in poetic yet accessible language that drives home how important our freedoms are. Joe highlights the chilling effect of your poem perfectly in his comment above – we should all be taking note of exactly who is hovering at our doorstep and your poetic rendition of Xiaoyao Yin and her family’s plight highlights exactly what’s at stake. Thank you for getting the harsh and unpalatable truth out there, Damian – it’s much appreciated.

    • Damian Robin

      Your comments are much appreciated, too, Susan. It’s refreshing how you pick up the positives and return them in ways that do what you say the poem(s) does(do). If you get my drift.
      Thanks and let’s stay vigilant.

  6. Mo

    Damian, my heart reaches out to you all. Peace to you…
    And yes, as those wise folks (above) have pointed out, we are not immune from those evils. Peace to us all…

  7. William Conelly

    Daily Family meditation: The Kingdom of Heaven remains within, no matter what’s cooking among the bosses.

  8. David Watt

    Damian, the fact that you wrote this poem from the perspective of personal knowledge makes the lines even more hard-hitting. Freedom is always easier to lose than it is to regain.

    • Damian Robin

      Thanks David. I used to gravitate to films “based on a true story” until I saw the stories bloat into spectacle. Documentaries sometimes have an agenda that leaves out so much it is biased if not untruthful. And what you say is also interesting from the view that what we are told about the poem, its backstory or the poet’s view of it, affect our understanding of the poem and its impact.

      Thanks for nudging this out. And yes, we must stand ground to not release freedoms that have been fought for through history.


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