Friday, October 12, 2012

Remembering Matthew Shepard: "Love Has Founded for the Dead an Everlasting Alliance"

Matthew Shepard died this day in 1998 at the age of 21.  He had been tortured, beaten, and left hanging on a fence to die by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.  Because Shepard, who weighed 105 pounds and stood 5'2", was gay.  

In memory of Matthew Shepard and his martyrdom, a poem by Chinese poet Bei Dao, "Requiem," commemorating the martyrs of Tiananmen Square:

Not the living but the dead
under the doomsday-purple sky
go in groups
suffering guides forward suffering
at the end of hatred is hatred
the spring has run dry, the conflagration stretches unbroken
the road back is even further away

Not gods but the children
amid the clashing of helmets
say their prayers
mothers breed light
darkness breathes mothers
the stone rolls, the clock runs backwards
the eclipse of the sun has already taken place

Not your bodies but your souls
shall share a common birthday every year
you are all the same age
love has founded for the dead
an everlasting alliance
you embrace each other closely 
in the massive register of deaths

Bei Dao, "Requiem," in Old Snow, trans. Bonnie S. McDougall and Chen Maiping (NY: New Directions, 1991),  p. 11.

The graphic is Arnold Böcklin's "The Deposition" (1874) from the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin.

No comments: