(responding to Ai Weiwei)
It’s great that in China they beat people up
or he wouldn’t have photographs
of uniformed men turning
their backs on his concussion and bruises.
The widest silence. In China, the characters
for sand crabs also mean something with metaphor
that troubles authorities, and it’s great that 10 thousand
can be found in an extravagant instant and served overnight
without the host in attendance,
or that 100 million
pieces of porcelain can be fired
by the same workers the U.S. employs
for pennies per hour. Made in China! So great.
This ambiguous repetition of slipping
black veins down a center,
each fake seed laughing at the gesture. It’s great
to crusade, to be restless
with shouldn’ts, to be mocking
the ruin of whatever’s been rendered,
breaking old urns, and even better
that curators find large rooms to display them;
great that he calls action a type of fragility, great
that he smiles, great with his beard. But is he a hero
if he doesn’t save lives,
if the specks on his Twitter photos
are disheveled? What is the weight of his message –
not averting our eyes?
Okay, yes, I guess, that’s enough.
The earth forms dismantling quakes that recur
with redundancy; rough anger unstitches
the globe, and this artist
peers in all the windows. In 2008, after the Sichuan 7.9,
he organized to have names called in on cell phones.
Loss billowed into an alarming index of voices and victims,
a path through a society quickly mislaid,
gone astray. The list kept continuing.
That one shook. So sorry
is never enough; is that his point?
Supreme power still reigns,
and representatives follow the law’s punctuation,
keeping to their sunglasses and boredom.
You and I couldn’t handle a camera pointed
on our front door, suspicious
and casting about
with its belligerent eye, but the trickster’s insistent,
defiant, still fresh and still smiling
under the weight of dominion. He’s unexcited,
unbridled. How great to be willing to discuss and strangle
each nerve. In China, they say the important words twice.
The copied words fuse into a fabric, compounding,
a riot — and no one can quiet
or break it to anything smaller.
Lauren Camp is the author of two volumes of poetry, most recently The Dailiness, winner of the National Federation of Presswomen 2014 Poetry Book Prize and a World Literature Today “Editor’s Pick.” Her third book, One Hundred Hungers, was selected by David Wojahn for the Dorset Prize, and will be published by Tupelo Press. Her poems have appeared in Brilliant Corners, Beloit Poetry Journal, Linebreak, Nimrod, J Journal, and elsewhere. She hosts “Audio Saucepan,” a global music/poetry program on Santa Fe Public Radio, and writes the blog Which Silk Shirt. www.laurencamp.com