The Heroes of Beijing

on the Jan. 21 movie premiere of Unsilenced,
just days before
the Beijing Winter Olympics

As great as it may be to send those hockey
Pucks on icy wisps of air into
A net as sweet as tightly guarded honey,
It is, at root, a childish thing to do
Compared to sending just one truth-filled flyer
Through fatal chills of government oppression
Into a hand and situation dire.
Ice skating spins and jumps do not impress
Next to the strength it takes to risk it all
For faith, tradition, what you know is right,
While on a globe as huge as you are small
Ignored by TV crews’ high-powered light.
__On Mount Olympus whispers say something
__And laugh: “Who are the heroes of Beijing?”



Evan Mantyk teaches literature and history in New York and is President of the Society of Classical Poets.

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6 Responses

  1. Tamara Beryl Latham

    Dear Evan,

    A wonderful sonnet that reminds us how things should be on a global scale, but unfortunately are not.

    Your couplet fills our plate with a portion of food for thought and the time to reflect on those few heroes in life who go against the natural grain. 🙂

  2. Margaret Coats

    Good sonnet with a great question. “Mount Olympus” at the end reminds us that the ancient Olympic games began, and later were revived, partly as a sacred festival of high values. The history of the modern games has worked out as a struggle to keep any focus on what is above, “while on a globe as huge as you are small.”

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    It’s absurd that our government has decided NOT to boycott the Chinese Olympic games (in the sense of allowing our teams to go there and compete), but WILL boycott the games “diplomatically” and “unofficially” by paying the games no attention and declining to comment on them.

    Is there anything more typical of liberal cluelessness? This need to support two contradictory approaches to reality, as a way to avoid dealing with any reality at all? Liberals are glandularly compelled to cover all bases, in order to congratulate themselves on their breadth of vision.

  4. Brian Yapko

    Evan, your poem is insightful and appropriately cutting. Sports heroes are idolized and yet make very little difference in the scheme of things. It’s awesome that they have the skills that they have but television glory and applause are shallow and fleeting and few champions are true heroes. One man who dares to share the truth while facing dire potential real-world consequences is far more impressive. Your reminder of what real heroism looks like is quite memorable.

  5. David Watt

    The Australian government has also decided to boycott the Beijing Olympics on a diplomatic level only. The Chinese authorities responded with “Who cares?”. Talk about a half-hearted, pointless exercise.
    It seems that sending athletes takes precedence over sending a message.

  6. James Sale

    A poem with many technical surprises – eg rhyming hockey/honey – and beautiful lines too – eg. While on a globe as huge as you are small, a very impressive performance. The invocation of Mount Olympus at the end is especially powerful. For myself I am now at the point where watching any sport is a matter of supreme aversion, since where is the sport in the sport? How can one take seriously the Australian Open tennis without the number one world player in it? In just about every field either money or politics diminish the sport in the sport.


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