Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: C. J. Anderson-Wu

The first time I encountered my daughter was when she was excavating the earth burying me. My daughter was born after my death sixty years ago, which means she was sixty years old, almost double my age when I was killed.

I had christened her Alyssa while my wife was pregnant. Following my passing, my wife remarried, and Alyssa’s name was changed to Amaryllis.

Amaryllis didn’t discover much of me—just the bone of a finger and a fragment of my skull. Without a headstone, she couldn’t even be certain that they were my remains.

Over the past six decades, my body has naturally decomposed. Beside me, a banyan sapling has matured into a large tree, but uprooted by a tropical cyclone several years ago. Though its roots were unearthed, its aerial roots continued to grow from the slanting trunk, reaching out toward the soil with less rocky terrain.

That’s how my existence unfolded over the years—the tree roots enveloped me, sharing the air and the raindrops that soaked into the soil. My body gradually vanished, merging with the tree roots and the earth below.

My daughter gathered the scant remains of me and reinterred them in the hometown of our ancestors. Though unnecessary for me, I am grateful for her efforts, as well as those who endeavor to uncover our history.

On the same site, there were still many of us unrecognized or unclaimed. I hope they have rested in peace. At night, our spirits became poetry recited by the chorus of cicadas, rustling tree leaves, and rippling streams under starlight. The justice we had pursued wasn’t delivered until now, in our wordless last will.


Backdrop of the story

The mass grave of Liuzhangli, Taipei City, was where more than two hundred political dissidents were found executed and buried during the early 1950s. At that time, the names of the executed were posted on billboards at the Taipei Main Station, and their families had only three days to reclaim their bodies. Due to fear or poverty, many of the victims’ families were unable to claim them, so they were hastily buried by the authorities. It wasn’t until the 1990s, following the abolition of Martial Law, that this mass grave became known to society.


About the author:

C.J. ANDERSON-WU (吳介禎) is a Taiwanese writer who has published two collections about Taiwan’s military dictatorship (1949–1987), known as the White Terror: Impossible to Swallow (2017) and The Surveillance (2020). Currently she is working on her third book Endangered Youth—to Hong Kong. Her works have been shortlisted for a number of international literary awards, including the Art of Unity Creative Award by the International Human Rights Art Festival. She also won the Strands Lit International Flash Fiction Competition, the Invisible City Blurred Genre Literature Competition, and the Wordweavers Literature Contest.

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