Tsunami Chant

I’m not a singer, but please
let me sing of the peacemakers
on the streets and internet, your candles
in this darkest moment of night,
your bodies on the steps of government buildings,
your voices from the roots of grasses and trees,
from your pit of conscience.

I’m not a prayer, but please,
please give my voice to the children
in Baghdad, Basra, Afghanistan,
and every other bombed-out place on earth,
your crying out in pain and fear;
please give my hands to the mothers
raking through rubble for food, bodies;
my sight to the cities and fields in smoke;
my tears to the men and women who are brought
home in bags; and please give my ears
to those who refuse to hear the explosions,
who tune only to censored news, official words.

I’m not a citizen, but please
count my vote against the belief
that the American way is the only way,
count it against the blasphemy of freedom,
against a gang of thugs who donned crowns
on their own heads, who live for power
and power only, whose only route is
to deceive and loot, whose mouths move
only to crush, whose hands close
only into a grave.

I’m not a worshiper, but please
accept my faith in those
who refuse to believe in painted lies,
refuse to join this chorus of supreme hypocrisy,
refuse to sell out, to let their conscience sleep,
wither, die. Please accept my faith
in those who cross the bridge for peace,
only to be cursed and spat upon, but keep crossing
anyway, every Wednesday, in rain and snow,
and my faith in those who camp out night after night,
your blood thawing the frozen ground,
your tents flowers of hope in this bleak age.

I don’t possess a bomb, don’t know
how to shoot or thrust a sword.
All I have is a broken voice,
a heart immense with sorrow.
But please, please take them,
let them be part of this tsunami
of chanting, this chant of awakening.

— Wang Ping

American artist and poet Wang Ping was born in Shanghai, China. She earned a B.A. from Beijing University before emigrating to the United States in her early twenties. She earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from NYU in 1999. Much of her work deals with issues of gender, language, and what it means to grow up in two cultures. Her (nonfiction book) Aching for Beauty: Footbinding in China won the Eugene Kayden Award for the Best Book in Humanities.

[Research note: Joshua Beckman and Matthew Zapruder, Eds., State of the Union: 50 Political Poems (Seattle: Wave Books, 2008): 3]

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