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Friday, May 26, 2017


by Devon Balwit

HONG KONG — Speaking at the University of Maryland, Yang Shuping, a graduating senior from China, sprinkled her upbeat commencement speech with observations that drew warm applause: The air was far cleaner in the United States than in China, she said, and she could openly discuss racism, sexism and politics in ways that she had never before dreamed possible. Growing up in China, “I was convinced that only authorities owned the narrative,” Ms. Yang, a theater and psychology major from the southern city of Kunming, told the crowd in a basketball arena in College Park, Md. “Only authorities could define the truth.” The speech on Sunday drew harsh criticism, however, from some of Ms. Yang’s Chinese classmates in Maryland and from legions of social media users in China, many of whom accused her of selling out her homeland. Even the city of Kunming weighed in, saying in a message on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, that her comments about the city’s air pollution were “not related to us.” —The New York Times, May 23, 2017

“…we count the whale immortal in his species however perishable in his individuality.”
                                                                                                 —Herman Melville

You speak your truth, and you are blacklisted
or must flee a social media shit-storm, the hard

shoulders that knock you out of true as you pass by.
Someone, somewhere messes with your data. Perhaps

you will shut up, shocked that your opinions matter,
but in ways you didn’t expect. You realize that you

are dangerous, a drop that can coagulate with others,
a splash that can thicken to storm. Of course, they

want you silent, but you, my friend, are immortal
in your species, however perishable singly. Though

they make this day a sinkhole, take the long view:
the ones to come freer for your hacking at the vines.

Devon Balwit is a teacher/poet living in Portland, OR. She has four chapbooks—How the Blessed Travel (Maverick Duck Press), Forms Most Marvelous (forthcoming with dancing girl press), In Front of the Elements, and Where You Were Going Never Was (both forthcoming with Grey Borders Books). Some recent poems can be found in The Non-Binary Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Almagre Review, The Stillwater Review, The Tule Review, Red Earth Review, The Free State Review, Front Porch, Concis.