Tian'anmen Sonnets

Wendy Xu

“6 x 4” Tian’anmen sonnets contain fourteen lines: 6 lines of 4 words, 4 lines of 6 words, and 4 lines of 4 words. The numbers 6 and 4 (June 4th) are censored in China, among other allusions to the date and event. This June 4th, 2019, marked the 30th anniversary of Tian’anmen Square.


Tian'anmen Sonnet

—After Wang Wei’s Thinking of My Brothers East of the Mountain

She conjures an evicted
memory, playing across windproof
computer screens just once:
Heavy willow blossoms trailing
water green as jade
Among the rarified landscapes

of grief, everyone shuffles to be found
West of Wang Wei’s poem see
brothers stranded in the apricot mist
Their feet stitched on land, simulating

mountain, village, nation—
And if they’re missing
in inaction, forgive them
Their useless pearls, nouns


Tian'anmen Sonnet


Pigeons crowd the air
A white silk gown
of clouds, heir apparent
to “doors of opportunity”
Preparing the good ink
to write: yesterday Uncle

has died, before him died another
Now gathered into a single country
with ugly known boundaries, grief rides
a breeze across the velvet sea

Determined to live substantially
Description pollutes the past
with color: cinnamon, steel
Memories racing against red