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You must not speak, you must not think, you must not dip your brush in ink.

June 4, 2014

It’s the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. In a few months it will be the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.

Cities are defined by their past. History is written in stones and in parks and in unfilled spaces.

I’m glad to be living in a city that let the wall fall down, and allows itself to be bolted and plated with plaques and memorials. Berlin is full of ghosts and wrongs and memories. But it is also alive and dancing.

British poet James Fenton wrote this about Tianenmen in 1989, shortly after troops opened fire on their own people. It made me think of Jaffna. But then, most things do.



Is broad and clean

And you can’t tell

Where the dead have been

And you can’t tell

What happened then

And you can’t speak

Of Tiananmen.

You must not speak.

You must not think.

You must not dip

Your brush in ink.

You must not say

What happened then,

What happened there.

What happened there

In Tiananmen.

The cruel men

Are old and deaf

Ready to kill

But short of breath

And they will die

Like other men

And they’ll lie in state

In Tiananmen.
They lie in state.

They lie in style.

Another lie’s

Thrown on the pile,

Thrown on the pile

By the cruel men

To cleanse the blood

From Tianamen.

Truth is a secret.

Keep it dark.

Keep it dark.

In our heart of hearts.

Keep it dark

Till you know when

Truth may return

To Tiananmen.


Is broad and clean

And you can’t tell

Where the dead have been

And you can’t tell

When they’ll come again.

They’ll come again

To Tiananmen.



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