Instructions for a Dissident

A poem for that time of year, by Rob Schackne


First, do not (whatever you do)

organise yourselves into perfect cells

it’s a dead giveaway, other people talk

plus, resist creating any magical crowds


Second, do not talk to the bigmouths

even if their conscience is a lighthouse

or if the one you want is really the funny wife

they’ll spill all the beans you don’t have


Third, prepare to be shoved hard into a cell

yes, on that old street with the worst kind of bars

with big doors they lock you in from the outside

(five years seems to be the standard sentence now)


Fourth, (yes this is also pretty vital, so listen up)

know that everything you know will be blocked

so write enough material to last the next five years

then periodically trust someone to release you


Fifth, sixth and seventh, (this is all important)

the sunshine and the blue sky and the breezes

how your baby looked when he first tasted banana

how you and your wife first made love, aching love.

Rob Schackne lives in Shanghai. Read his previous poems for the Anthill here