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Xiao Qiang: The Drummer

June 27, 2007

1989 Democracy Movement veteran Jiang Pinchao, now living in Los Angeles, compiled 385 poems to mark the 18th anniversary of the June 4th crackdown. Advance drafts of the book, reproduced in pirated editions, have been confiscated by officials throughout China. This is translations of a small selection of the poems.

The Drummer (鼓手)

Xiao Qiang (萧强)

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.

From “Beijing Notebook” (北京诗笺)