To Xu Lizhi, Foxconn Worker, Poet

by Euan Wallace

You said once that you swallowed an iron moon

I did not know what you meant; I was still young

 

Before I ebbed and flowed in fatigue on concrete flooring

Cold white light hollowed me―I had tunnel vision

 

Eleven days changed me, gave me

a woolen soldier’s cloak; five o’clock shadow; sullen breath; blisters, sore limbs

 

Sometimes I wonder what life was like at Foxconn

The drab assembly lines, the simple dorm rooms

 

The mid-level management

Who see you fall asleep standing up and ignore you

 

I wonder if you had the same alarm clock cruelly wrench you from sleep:

The stoic buzz of an iPhone against a dresser, or a floor perhaps

 

If I could afford a doctor

I would tell him I too suffer from bizarre ailments

 

That I have river cobbles in my lungs

Molasses in my frontal lobe, sweet and damning

 

Addiction and centuries of psychic pain

A Dundee paper-boy of twelve who watched boats in the harbor

 

I sway a corn stalk in the wind drunk so many nights

Remembering you and wondering why

 

You swayed between yes or no

In the stale humid heat on the ledge of your dormitory window and chose yes

 

In those seconds of fluid freefall―

Were you determined? Was it a mistake? Was it a statement?

 

After your bones met pavement, shattered on impact

After your body became lifeless lump

 

After they cordoned your impact zone off with caution tape

After they hosed off the blood

 

They wrapped the tops of every building with nets:

Nets are cheaper than counselors

 

If I could I would comfort your mother

My hand on her shoulder, she hugs a cup of steaming green tea

 

Sobs and gushes violently rock her tiny frame

She has lost a son, she has lost a son.

 

Behind her there is a small television set with DVD player attached

A tiny Buddha with faux golden facade to the right of it

 

The Buddha is fat and happy, laughing

Next to the Buddha, who is singing now, is an incense holder

 

The tiny room is washed in cold fluorescent light

And choked with sandlewood incense smoke

 

In each blue billow of calm wafting I wonder

How many poems from you we have been robbed

 

I will not weep but seek to understand

I shall not condemn but comprehend

 

That your dormitory halls were an isolation chamber

That your desperate shouts were met only with your echo

 

There is a world outside what few windows in those halls had hidden

Where cries reverberate across oceans, rolling onto shore on the crest of each wave

 

We need only to hear them and speak in unison

We need only to merge our fists into one

 

And we would cough out these cobbles

Expel this molasses with fresh blood

 

Hack away at these walls

And purge ourselves of our iron moons