“Revolution is a / big word,” writes Sarah Feng. The title of this poem translates in English to “Today, I can speak,” and it seems almost unimaginable that the speaker in this situation would be able to engage with language in any way except through poetry — how better to cry out against oppression? And how to speak in any way except through poetry when the body has been slated for execution? Here there is purity and relentless conviction, a rich embrace of the still-sensual world of “heat-bruised passionfruit,” even as the sky breaks over a voice soon to be silenced. — Sophie Klahr





Thousands of students march through the capital [Beijing] to Tiananmen Square in April 1989, calling for a more democratic government. In the weeks that follow, thousands of people join the students to protest against China’s Communist rules. After several weeks of demonstrations,
Chinese troops entered Tiananmen Square on June 4 and fired on civilians. It has been estimated that as many as 10,000 people were arrested during and after the protests.

Several dozen people have been executed for their parts in the demonstrations.


(call me a nationalist, or
call me an inmate.)

mother, do you know:
at seven intersections,
lights blink green.
a flood swarms around
the metal ark.
sky splitting open,
seven pairs of lips
glow a pulpy red.
our motherland made up
of plumes of screeching smog.

(mother, i no longer taste salt
when i speak.)

i wonder if noise
could marble skin.
thrashing, i stream
down legs and
through breasts,
lay myself bare
on tiled domes of tiananmen, curl up
in heat-bruised passionfruit
splitting by the butcher.
revolution is a
big word & so is

the wind shreds the portrait
of old Mao into confetti.
i strip myself bare
& dance in the ribbons.

mother, i am writing to you from my prison cell.
tomorrow, at eight, my execution.

we drink the catharsis with our hands.
i am gulping down the air
until my mouth bleeds like our flag.

[1] Today, I can finally talk again.

[2] I love my country.




Sarah Feng is 14 and a sophomore at Pinewood School. A National Poetry Quarterly Best of Issue scholarship recipient, she is the author of 2 self-published novels and a 2017 Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship poetry mentee. Her work has been recognized by the regional Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the Willamette Writers, and the California Coastal Commission, among others, and has been published/is forthcoming in the Storm Cellar Quarterly, the Rising Phoenix Review, and the Los Angeles Times Insider. She interns at the Blueshift Journal and reads prose for the Glass Kite Anthology.

Honorable mentions: Anisha Bellamy (Miami Arts Charter, Miami, FL); Cleo Engle (Charlottesville High School, Charlottesville, VA); Taylor Fang (Logan High School, Logan, UT); Eli Frievalt (Miami Arts Charter, Miami, FL); Kanchan Naik (The Quarry Lane School, Dublin, CA); Megan O’Donnell (Mt. Blue High School, Farmington, ME); Ilana Sabban (Miami Arts Charter, Miami, FL)

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