Fifteen Years of Darkness

Liu Xiaobo

Before dawn at home in Beijing, 6/4/2004
Fifteenth anniversary offering for 6/4

15 years ago
a massacre took place at daybreak
I died then was reborn

15 years have passed
daybreak bayonets dyed red
is still a blade fixed in the eyes

15 years have passed
I still have nightmares of those departed souls
I see them soaked with blood
I write each stroke each line
as an outpouring of the tomb

15 years have passed
within the darkness of vanished freedom
I wait for the hour-hand to point to pre-
dawn's advent of the fifteenth anniversary offering

Tonight, in this city without altar
I hope the dead souls can see my eyes
and turn my watchful gaze into the flicker of a candle flame
Not the sacrificial spirit money for the ancestors
not the raging blaze that illuminates the cold night
but memory's nakedness
is like a bone that will not decay

15 years ago
martial-law troops besieged the Square
the military broadcast the order over and
over, a continuous transmission of gunshots and bloodthirsty news
A few hours before
the gathering crowds, the clamoring crowds
then in a blink the light was extinguished
people fled like a surge of quicksilver
leaving behind an empty void

Among the hunger-strike tents on the Monument
I gathered with the students and local residents
continuous gunshots rang out
bullets struck the Monument
sparks sprayed off the marble
I released an eye-flooding flash
broke an automatic rifle in half
though I can't break open the silence of the dark night

Facing an unpredictable fate
I stare dumbly into the darkness
unable to discern if the starlight abyss
is hell or paradise

15 years have passed
unexpected bloodshed has suffocated me
unexpected prisons have hardened me
I've become a thick stone
yield to the lashings of political terrors
expression hardened, frozen
always unchanged

From the massacre's bloodshed to harsh surveillance
the horrors of that night
have yet to move half-a-pace away
After the house-raid then handcuffs
after handcuffs then prison
after prison then the police sentry at my building's gate
A personal shadow
interrogates our houseguests
Phones tapped
mail vetted
all forms of communication cut off
Let me turn into a blind-and-deaf man
in the dark dark night
to resist the silence

Walls of a cell may confine the body
but no cell walls can restrain the soul

15 years have passed
a murderer's regime
forces one to desperation
A nation that tolerates a murderous regime and forgets the killed
forces one to deeper desperation
A survivor of the massacre powerless to demand justice for the victims
forces one to the deepest desperation
But in such desperation
remembering the departed spirits
is the only hope left

Let the darkness transform into rock
across the wilderness of my memory

From June Fourth Elegies by Liu Xiaobo. Copyright © 2012 by Liu Xiaobo and Jeffrey Yang. Reprinted with permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

From June Fourth Elegies by Liu Xiaobo. Copyright © 2012 by Liu Xiaobo and Jeffrey Yang. Reprinted with permission of Graywolf Press. All rights reserved.

Liu Xiaobo