Ian Heffernan

Tank Man

Down there on the harsh expanse
Of the Avenue of Eternal Peace
A column of tanks is heading out.

White shirt, black trousers, two small bags –
You stand as if beside slow-flowing water;
An undeflected human life.

You move to block the leading tank
Then climb its glacis plate, call in,
Climb down and bar its way again.

The scene endures. We admire
That hopeless blank tenacity.
We know it’s how we ought to be.

Call it the beauty of dissent.
When history twists around itself
And spits into its victims’ faces,

There are those who hold their ground –
Recusant, refractory, alone –
They demonstrate what matters most:

见义勇为not 为虎作伥 –
‘See justice, act courageously’,
Don’t ‘help the strong abuse the weak’ –

Anonymous, they urge us on.

Ian Heffernan was born just outside London, where he still lives. He studied at UCL and SOAS and works with the homeless. His poetry has been published recently in the High Window, Ink, Sweat & Tears, Cha, Antiphon, South Bank Poetry, London Grip, Under the Radar, FourXFour, the Moth and elsewhere.