July 2, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

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Pesach Rotem




Dreaming in Tibetan



It’s not that hard to destroy a People.

You don’t need gas chambers or even bullets.

Just take away its language

And the soul of a People will vanish like smoke.


The government of China is removing the Tibetan language from Tibet.

From the schools, from government offices, from radio and television.

That is how the government of China intends to destroy the Tibetan people.


It is only the soul that is destroyed.

The body remains.

A Tibetan individual can speak Mandarin Chinese and survive and even prosper.

But the Tibetan people—as a People with a culture and an identity—

Will wither away and die.


Some might call it a good thing.

Perhaps all these cultures and identities and languages are nothing

But barriers that divide us when we should be searching for bridges to unite us.

That’s one point of view.


Others call it a damn shame

But what can you do?

We have things to do and lives to live and besides,

China is too powerful to be defied.


And then there is Tashi Wangchuk.

A fanatic, perhaps.

A fool, perhaps.

But he did something.

He travelled to Beijing and

He tried to file a lawsuit to compel Tibetan language instruction in the Tibetan public schools and

He tried to present his case on a Chinese public-affairs television program and

He spoke about protecting the Tibetan language with a reporter for the New York Times and

That’s all.


Not much.

No banners waved, no slogans chanted, no rocks hurled, no calls for resistance.

But enough.

Enough to earn him a 5-year prison sentence for the supposed crime of “inciting separatism.”


And now:

The occupation grinds on.

The Dalai Lama remains in exile.

The culturecide continues apace.

And Tashi Wangchuk lives in a cell

And dreams in Tibetan.






Pesach Rotem

Pesach Rotem was born and raised in New York and now lives in the village of Yodfat in northern Israel. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his J.D. from St. John’s University. His poems have been published in more than a dozen literary journals including Chiron Review, Natural Bridge, and Voices Israel.

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