JinJin Xu

 

 

Showing My Mother a Censored Film She Cannot Unsee, in Three Acts

after In search of Lin Zhao’s Soul (Hu Jie, 2004)

 

ACT 1.
INT. LIVING ROOM – SHANGHAI, 2019
INT. TI LAN QIAO PRISON – SHANGHAI, 1960

It was not Lin Zhao’s poems written in blood
that unraveled my mother,
pricked from fingers so tender
its red splintered mother from land,
a departed era – no, a fatal age –
when the living could still subsist
on poetry trickling stroke by stroke
onto the cotton threads of her school
turned prison uniform,
solitary bricks of her cell decrying
the deception of living,
fear keeps and keeps its youth.

ACT 2.
INT. LIVING ROOM – SHANGHAI, 2019
EXT. VILLAGE ASSEMBLY – PING XANG, 1976

Martyr, Lin Zhao signed,
drying the ink of her veins,
sealing the condition of dying.
Only someone so young
would – my mother shakes
her voice leaden at the girl-martyr on screen,
as if years are anything less than betrayal.

Textbook era of martyrs,
bodies exchanged for revolutions,
her mother kneeling on shards of idea,
numbing my mother against fevered friends,
red-eyed and begging to unleash
their unlearned years,
a hunger to be reborn.

Promise me –
blackmail of mothered truth,
I mouth my twenty-four
years into a prayer,
exile of daughtered silence,
roll my life out into the clasp
of my mother’s lined palm.

ACT 3.
INT. LIVING ROOM – SHANGHAI, 2019
INT. KITCHEN – SHANGHAI, 1968

Wu fen!
Black & white request
cuts static into her,
my mother,
Five cents! rising
to a window
where Lin Zhao’s
unnamable mother
sat gashing fish scales
into the tremble
of a bucket
between her legs,
not yet knowing
the cost
of a bullet fired
at dawn
into the belly
of her
poem –

 

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/841790203″ params=”color=#001aff&inverse=false&auto_play=false&show_user=true” width=”100%” height=”20″ iframe=”true” /]

 


JinJin Xu is a writer and filmmaker from Shanghai. Her poetry and nonfiction essays have been published in The Common, Women Studies Quarterly, The Margins, and her films shown at Berlin’s Harun Farocki Institute. She is currently an MFA candidate in Poetry at NYU, where she received the Lillian Vernon Fellowship. After spending a year traveling across nine countries as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, she is at work on a docu-poetics project collaborating with women dislocated as refugees and migrant workers.


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