Wing Tek Lum (2013 Poem In Your Pocket)

Nanjing, December, 1937

by Wing Tek Lum

Thousands tethered like cattle, herded like sheep
into the mountains, the suburbs, the city squares,
into the gullies and waterfront,
to be skewered like pigs, mounted from behind like goats,
castrated, pummeled senseless, clubbed to death,
to be buried alive in ditches dug by themselves,
buried to their waists, their guts ripped out by dogs,
to be run over by tanks, drowned in the river without pity,
dowsed with acid, sprayed with gasoline and then set on fire,
locked in their homes which were then set on fire,
to be propped up for bayonet drills,
hung by their tongues nailed to wooden boards,
to be mutilated, their faces pierced with needles,
ears hacked their eyes gouged out,
slivers of skin carved out, strip by thin strip,
penises cleaved off to be dried and consumed,
to be assembled together to be machine gunned
or to be blown up by hand grenades,
or one by one to be shot in the back by the side of a road,
to be stabbed, disemboweled, dismembered,
to be shoved into icy ponds, their frozen corpses
like floating logs used for target practice,
row upon row to be forced to kneel upon the shore
and then decapitated by swords slicing through necks,
severing flesh, crushing bone, their heads flying off,
torsos spurting twin fountains of blood,
crumpling into the mud, only to be dumped into the river
by the next row of men ready to take their places.

And then it was the women’s turn.


The Nanking Safetyzone

by Wing Tek Lum

Eyes red beyond tears
darting, filled with crazed hope
her voice so choked, past sobbing
past exhaustion and despair
that she can barely muster a whisper
her plea hoarse and deliberate
as she shoves through the ornate gate
through a narrow opening of cast iron
the bundle of her young son
just old enough to walk
but not yet weaned
wrapped tightly in a large padded jacket
a long scarf and woolen cap
squeezing him through the grating
into the surprised arms of strangers
those already crowded around camps inside
fortunate enough to have arrived earlier
inside the sanctuary walls
these walls shielding them from plunder and rape
the slaughter outside
even of infants bayoneted
or their heads dashed to the ground
in front of parents
an imaginable horror to this mother
now desperate to complete her last act
and then race away from the wall
vowing never to look back
as if it would be bad luck
her will so strongly focused
even against her own maternal instincts
that she could at all costs
care for him forever
but now she knows that this can never be so
and so for this one final chance
she takes control of her son’s life
by giving him up
his survival with better odds than her own
a lone woman on the street
now unburdened and resigned
stealing away through the rubble of her wounded city.
before the night that soon will come.

Wing Tek Lum is a Hawaiʻi businessman and poet. His first collection of poetry, Expounding the Doubtful Points, was published by Bamboo Ridge Press in 1987. His latest work is a book of documentary poetry based on the Nanjing Massacre. The Nanjing Massacre: Poems will be available to purchase this Summer 2013 at the Bamboo Ridge Press website. Check the website for one of Wing Tek Lum’s many readings and appearances.

Currently Reading