By Daniel Wilcox
 
The brown filth mucked up
To his shins, over a foot deep,
And buried his calloused and ulcered
Feet, as he shoveled the human feces
Out of the reeking prison tank
For 60,000 lost souls where
He had been lowered by smirking guards.

At least the yellowed pus seeping
From his ankle was hidden in the dung
But the dark brown stench
Caused an acrid backwash in his mouth.
His hands sweat with offal grime as
He slopped the feces out of his pitted world,
Punished with red-guarded re-education
By this fecal matter, revolting
To the norm of all learning from
Mao’s Red Book and black-teethed mouthings,

Tattooed beyond mental recovery in
The comrades’ dialectical brains.

But the cesspooled matter of all this?
Where the obscenities refuse to die
Where so many humans suffocate, confined
To suffering in the waste of others’ feculent ways.

This learned Chinese man, coerced
To live within the dung gate and clean
Sludge of human manure, created
This fetid sewer into his reverent garden;
The septic tank became a place of praise,
Ceaseless worship with every slimed shovel,
One hell-gated spiritual oasis.

His fielded visions, not the Asian facts,
Nor the clichés of Western affluence,
But of the order of Elie Wiesel’s prayer
In the effluent night of Bergen-Belsen
Where the excrement of cultural dominance
Floods to its all-time low—ever present–
Where the obscenities refuse to die
And cadaverous worms eat tissued body parts.

To give timeless eternal thanks
Despite the ordures of such polluted nights,
To live in hope while shoveling feces
Or your neighbors’ poisoned ashes
Surrounded and feet deep in the filth;

The answer that seems so reeking
Pollyannaish if it weren’t Existential–
A lighted match of faith in that bottomless pit
Of long history’s shit of evil acts,
The complete excrement of mystery;

Then the man ‘crosses’ the tank,
Finally wholly empty,
To be lifted up by a psalm
Of compost and fertilizer
Winging up in the Spirit.
 
*Factual background from a news article by Dan Wooding, British journalist, and Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Haliday
 
 

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