Elegy for the Tank Man

[Tiananmen Square, Peking, 5 June, 1989]

A stand-off in the liquid heat of Tiananmen Square

Caused Deng’s conga-line of tanks to begin rolling there.

They rumbled down the avenue…

Scoping tired students; waiting for their cue.

Suddenly a man appeared and stood before the ranks,

Armed only with shopping bags – He defied the tanks,

The lead tank turned and tried to pass, the man moved in its way;

Then firing came, a soldier yelled but still he chose to stay.

He clambered on a tank and knocked, no friendly answer came,

And finally the cameras stopped while gangsters shared the blame,

We never saw the man again, we hoped he’d disappear

Back into obscurity but his fame had spread, we fear.

Who would ever dare to take the stance that he assumed,

Knowing that one’s effort and one’s life were surely doomed,

Alone, unarmed, to stand his ground to foil an evil plan,

Could we ever be as brave or noble as Tank Man?


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