Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

OctPoWriMo #22: Broken Pieces

A large brooch with a sedate row of trees
and three junks on a calm river
in conventional blue and white ceramic
was placed next to a row of pillboxes,
each differently, delicately colored,
no dates, no names.
The placard simply read:
"Poetry shard: Cultural Revolution."

I knew what these bits of Chinese ceramics meant
as they lay before me:
Remnants of sanctioned violence,
a pillaging of lives, of history and art,
visible symbols
of a rampage against artists and intellectuals,
the military boot crushing
tiny thousand-year-old tea cups,
‘decadent art’ students and soldiers
could tear down, rip, smash, kick, and destroy;
this cultural legacy lost just fifty years ago.

How did this pin come here, to this small museum store?
The slope of the pin holds the shape of the large urn that once was,
its slight belly bulging outward, rimmed in silver.
The ceramic piece is thick, yet I can see through
its traditional milk-blue stone.
Did its owner survive? 
Did some Chinese entrepreneur bake these shards
last month, last week, 
manufacturing fake artifacts
to feed nostalgic capitalism, a knock-off
of early 20th Century trade goods?

Of course, I wear it.
I really don’t care if the pin is authentic or not.
Wearing it affirms what was lost.
For a few years more, this shard will be treasured.
The barbarians at the gate can’t destroy everything.
An artist’s work has its own meaning
and makes its own transformations.

The Chinese brooch, found at a small museum store.

Tomorrow's prompt: Fur babies.

You can visit OctPoWriMo at to read what others have written. Thank you, Morgan Dragonwillow, Michelle Vecchitto, Esther Jones, and Maria L. Berg for hosting this month-long poetry challenge.


  1. Beautiful in political, literal, and metaphorical senses, Beth.

    1. Thank you. The backdrop for the brooch is of a carved Japanese chest my aunt had for many years. Certainly the poems for today's prompt are very diverse!

  2. Oh WOW, Beth, this is very impressive writing--and the brooch is lovely, almost looks like scrimshaw. I finally figured out that you are over HERE, Hurray!!

    1. Thank you, Avia, for your perseverance! I'm following you as well. I don't wear the brooch often, for it's small (about 3" wide) but heavy. Somehow when we least expect it, objects carry more than what they seem.

  3. History makes even small things heavy. I like the sentiments you express in this poem.

    1. Thank you, Jane. Sometimes we think we make our own history, but we're also shaped by events from long ago.

  4. What Jade, Avia and Jane said! I love the poem very much.