“The Fear in Lhasa” – A Poem by Woeser

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Now a city of fear.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Where the fear is greater than all the fear after ’59, ’69, and ’89 put together.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Where the fear is in your breathing, in the beating of your heart,
In the silence when you want to speak but don’t,
In the catch in your throat.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Where constant fear has been wrought by legions with their guns,
By countless police with their guns,
By plainclothesmen beyond counting,
And still more by the colossal machinery of the State that stands behind them night and day;
But you mustn’t point a camera at them or you’ll get a gun pointed at you,
maybe hauled off into some corner and no one will know.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Where the fear starts at the Potala and strengthens as you go east, through the Tibetans’ quarter.
Dreadful footsteps reverberate all round, but in daylight you won’t glimpse even their shadow;
They are like demons invisible by day, but the horror is worse, it could drive you mad.
A few times I have passed them and the cold weapons in their hands.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Where the fear is now minutely scanned by the cameras that stud avenues and alleys and offices,
and every monastery and temple hall;
All those cameras,
Taking it all in,
Swiveling from the outer world to peer inside your mind.
“Zab zab chi! °They’re watching us” − among Tibetans this has become a byword, furtively whispered.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa:
The fear in Lhasa breaks my heart.?Got to write it down.

August 23, 2008
On the road out of Lhasa

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° Zab zab chi (Tibetan): “I beg you, be careful”. These days, a very common expression among Tibetans.

[I was in Lhasa from August 17 to August 23, my shortest stay ever, and I had no choice about leaving . . . these words were to remember it by.

And there’s something I want to say:? You have the guns.?I have a pen.]

Translated from Chinese by www.raggedbanner.com
View the original here

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)