Beijing Notebook: 30 Years Ago

Stars (星星)

That night, I was so tired.
Once asleep, I didn’t wake.

When the tanks came grinding past the tents,
I was still in the midst of the sweetest dreams.

Our flesh was cleft in the freezing tracks,
blood seeping by inches into the slabs;

Our youth
Sprang up with the roaring flames.

We watch yet over the square,
The brightest stars of dawn.

Fresh Flowers (鲜花)

It is the sixth dawn
After the hunger strike.

An old woman, both eyes blind and rheumy,
Leaning on a little girl,

Grasping a bouquet of fresh flowers,
Totters in among us.

The picket line instantly parts
And the raucous square falls silent.

In the vast darkness
Flowers as red as blood.

Big Guy (大爷)

Who’s in charge here?
I want to speak with him.

Tell me, whose lousy idea
Was all this?

We were just fine here in Beijing;
What are you doing, driving your tanks in here?

You’re Chinese, too!
Put down your guns, I’ll take you to Tiananmen for a look.

Please, put your guns down!
It’s just a bunch of kids over there.

The Drummer (鼓手)

Singing all night, shouting slogans all night,
Everyone’s exhausted.

Just as dawn approaches
The lights in the square go out.

We understand, the troops are approaching;
The end has come.

In the deathly stillness, someone
Grabs a drum and climbs the cenotaph.

Two hundred thousand people sit in silence;
In the darkness no sound but the drum’s increasingly urgent tattoo.

(To the translator, thank you!)