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History Says (Hegemon Remix).

I.
 
History is muttering in the background. Please if you are not speaking
can
you put yourself on mute? The conference line echoes. This isn't my
usual
scene.
                                  II.
I nibbled around the edges of history in school. Mouse bites that were
almost American history, a piece on the Revolutionary War here, a crumb
on the Kennedy assassination there. Even less on what was not American
history. I was a straight-A student who did not know the dates for World
Wars, civil wars, War of the Roses, and if you keep asking I won't
have the
names of the wars either.
In college I took a bye for world history, as if without evidence I had
already concluded with certainty that all tomorrows were games in which
I was assured of being on the winning side. History says, those who do
not
know me are doomed to repeat me. [Hegemon says, the victors repeating
their victory is hardly doom, so who is your warning really for?]
                                 III.
I felt guilty, I suppose. Was I doomed? I tried a different tack, hoping
to
make inroads with adjacencies like the history of science and political
economy, but my copy of A People's History of the United States
 that I
aspirationally acquired remained as pristine as my copy of
Wheelock's
 Latin
(same impulse). I suppose I want to handicap myself, so that there can
be no
mistake later.
                                 IV.
A man once said to me, "You can't underestimate the power of
history."
He was trying to explain to me the nature of European rivenness. He said
something about language, culture, a litany of wars, but what I heard
was,
no bell is uncracked except one unseen, nor its loveliest tone unless
heard
from a distance. But let's not dwell on what he said or what I
heard.
                                 V.
History says, I belong to my victors. History says, the losers are put
on display for all to see. [But what do I hear? Hegemon says, don't
be
ridiculous. Hegemon says, they are merely incidental to the agreed upon
story of the victors.]
Now I find that I must piece things together for myself. So let us work
backwards.
                                VI.
June was a subwoofer.
May was a half game of Go hiding some way out only if you could see that
ripples are the sleeper agents of waves forming hundreds of miles
offshore.
April was the no-knead bread doubling in size every four hours airy with
warm festering and expectation.
                               VII.
A calamity. // History says, wasn't it ever.
A finale. // History says, I wouldn't wait around for it.
                               VIII.
Hegemon says, the protection of power is the ability to never have to
bother
learning history. Hegemon says, memorize what you must for this test. I
promise you'll never have to think about this shit again.
                               IX.
Thirty years make up a saeculum, or perhaps it is a hundred. But if all
the
living members of a group of people who survived a calamity have already
forgotten, live as if there weren't anything they had to forget,
then what
   the
Etruscans believed about the length of a saeculum isn't really the
point
   here.


These poems are part of a chapbook manuscript entitled Emperor Penguins on the Square, which reflects on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests on the occasion of its 30th anniversary as well as He Xiang's childhood in Beijing and China's development in the subsequent three decades.

He Xiang lived in Beijing as a child. Other poems from this series have appeared in Prairie Schooner, which awarded them the Strousse Poetry Award, and will be forthcoming in Bennington Review and Ploughshares.
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Article Details
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Author:Xiang, He
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Sep 1, 2020
Words:696
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