for Wei Jingsheng and Huang Xiang
Look what’s pasted here—
Poet on the wall says
we’re all dictators, despots
shouldering to get in first.
with inflated superegos.
Besides, what the fuck does he know?
He’s only a lad.
Enlightened poets carve their
words in stone—
these just whimper,
blow away like leaves
in a storm.
He might as well
in the sky.
Zhong Guo means the middle country;
the middle way, the path to liberation.
Coal thieves on scooters
dig from the middle of the earth,
separate the temporal from the permanent,
burn fires that melt iron ore
and draw curtains over the skies.
The old man wished for the atom bomb,
but Stalin wouldn’t give it to him.
In 1967, he got it.
He dredged fish from lifeless rivers,
fed souls with limp clothes
and hungry eyes.
As we were told, in our Village Cooperatives
and People’s Communes,
real miracles could happen.
In 1970, he launched satellites
straight into heaven,
to give us an eye
on the world.
I’ve been told you can’t split the atom
any way but down the middle.
We ate monkey brains in secrecy
just to see what they tasted like,
as if they might remind us of you;
and although the ancient custom
was to strap the chosen primate
in a made-for-measure cabinet
with only the shaved cranium exposed,
crush the skull-bone with a golden hammer,
while she screamed and whimpered,
begging for the beginning of time;
an experience, I’ve been told, like no other,
we preferred them fried in garlic and onions
separated from the body,
dipped them in rice wine vinegar.
You got sick after that, struggled
for ten days and nights,
dampening the sheets with your toxins.
I knew you’d live.
You wanted to die.
I remember the morning your fever broke
was the morning the H5N1 virus
flamed across the country,
everyone was wearing a blue mask
and we no longer feared the secret police.
At its most basic level, Mao’s Mole is a cinematic journey through China’s last hundred-or-so years, offering snapshots, incidental reflections and moments of flux across a broad spectrum of the Middle Kingdom’s citizens and their foreign guests. On wider levels, the book poses deep questions of society, identity and culture; Mao’s Mole concerns itself with the development of icons, figureheads and modern mythology in today’s China; with the making of modern nations; with our dented twenty-first century mythologies.
-- Marc Vincenz