Middle Yanji Road
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The smell of fried dumplings and,
bus exhaust alight upon,
the open kitchen window.
With the approaching rain,
our days turn gray.
-
Green tiled linoleum,
a battered timber door,
faint characters long carved by a young Red Guard.
The tear-studded oak still whispering:
long live Chairman Mao…long live Chairman Mao…
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Amid seas of Little Red Books, banners hoisted high,
a young man's eager shouts, a old man's lamenting cries,
to stride over shards of pavement porcelain, gazing to see an emperor’s books smolder upon the pyre,
swept up in the masses fueling the flames which consumed the Four Olds,
my father’s friends never seemed to tire.
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Ducking and weaving across narrow alleys he went,
boots pounding the weathered stone, ripping off his Red Guard cap, an act which his friends never dared to transgress,
the mob, the mass, in pursuit behind him, spearheaded by a shrewd man,
lips curled up tight in a sneer,
behind the embers of a Zhonghua cigarette.
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Many late nights when I was at his bedside, bathed in the ethereal glow of Kowloon’s neon lights, he spoke of Middle Yanji Road,
of the seas of Little Red Books, banners hoisted high,
of a young man’s eager shouts, a old man’s lamenting cries,
breaking free from the masses fueling the flames upon which ravaged a beautiful past,
was it a wonder those friendships never seemed to last?
He showed me what was left of the old apartment, after they came,
of my grandparents weeping under the shattered windows,
broken and bleeding with the rain.
A penknife had been pulled on the door, flicked open to sow:
long live Chairman Mao…long live Chairman Mao…
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