A powerful poem by Perry Gasteiger: “A Bright Night in Lhasa”

A Bright Night in Lhasa

A hush blankets the city,
the atmosphere hanging heavy in my chest
as quiet shadows scurry along,
empty faces and dull eyes 
skirting around in the night.
I see men in green uniforms 
leering through the dark,
fingering belts adorned with
batons and assault rifles,
and the black-blue of insidious silence
settles like a film on my skin.

An explosion rips the air apart
crimson and gold robed bodies
catch fire in the darkness around me,
self-immolating in the square,
the scent of burning skin invades my nostrils,
sticking in the back of my throat:
a gruesome call to action.

Bodies thrown upon the ground at my feet
flame in passionate display,
smouldering as they rise from submission,
spreading arms above their heads
I watch molten wings bringing light
to the horrors witnessed in the shadows:
I see broken creatures illuminated
crumpled on the pavement,
fingers crushed beneath steel boots,
fractured bones and bloodied faces--
a nation’s pain splayed upon the cobblestones
as monsters wearing men’s skin
smirk from the corners.

The cries of a people ring in my ears
as the square writhes in agony,
prayers echo from burning mouths,
the mournful call of defiance
sitting cool on scorched tongues
and the world itself weeps.

Salt and soot flow together
down the streets like blood
pooling at the knees of a woman
screaming as she is thrown against the wall
again and again and again,
left shattered and gasping on the ground,
I clutch at my stomach, breaking inside of me
as I stare at her tear stained face.

Charred flesh bears witness to depravity
executed upon the innocent,
flames dancing in manic throes
cast grotesque pictures upon the wall,
I watch scenes of violent subjugation
playing out on the stones before me
as voices chant in dissent,
“We are still here,
the city is burning.”

Bio: Perry Gasteiger is a queer, non-binary poet. Their work focuses on the mundane darkness of our everyday world using juxtaposition between the real and the abstract, the beautiful and the deformed, the congruent and the disordered. Perry aims to see the easily unnoticeable in an evocative and empathetic way.
Twitter: @sunshineloft