Tank Man

5 June 1989, Gate of Heavenly Peace

He’d just been shopping. Nestled
inside the bags were jars, tins,
vegetables, maybe even a whole
chicken. The road stretched empty

except for the tanks. His friends
would be at his door soon. He needed
an hour for the bird to simmer
into tenderness. Ten minutes

to peel and dice the carrots,
onions and ginger. Half an hour
to boil the rice. But the tanks
slowly advanced on swiss roll

wheels. His bags were heavy.
Their white handles cut. His hands
grew red and riven. But he stood there,
a sculpture, grown into the land.

The first tank came so close
its hulk blocked out the sun
even as the man lifted his chin
and searched out the tank’s eye.

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Eileen Chong is a Sydney poet. Her books are Burning Rice, Peony, Painting Red Orchids (all from Pitt Street Poetry, Sydney) and Another Language (George Braziller, New York). Rainforest is forthcoming in 2018. eileenchong.com.au

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