Leonore Hildebrandt



Li Wenliang, 12 October 1986 – 7 February 2020. Chinese Internet users have left more than 870,000 comments under Li’s last post on social website Sina Weibo since his passing. (Wikipedia, 25 April 2020)



Today sky and water are of the same gray. I wish you could see the waves rippling.

They are tireless. They don’t care one bit.


Dr. Li, you warned us. Have you arrived yet in the lightness of heaven?


Your posts are so kind. They have not been deleted. And your city is stirring

again––families pick up the ashes for burial.


Your patient’s tears were deadly. Now our tears keep welling up, unstoppable by



Last night a bird kept fluttering against the window, exhausting itself, so we turned

off the light in the house. Then we stumbled in the dark, breaking glass. Still, we

were trying—


Dear Dr. Li, I miss you.


In streets and markets, as we come upon the body’s fluids, we wonder about



Have you ever seen how a young pangolin sleeps on its mother’s tail? As if draped

over a log. They are born with scales—soft, immaculate.


Dr. Li, my scales have hardened.


The moon does not mourn our losses. Unclaimed bodies are buried in mass

graves. They were claiming too much space in the trucks.


The authorities want us to forget, but we display pictures of your face—young,



Do you like cherry blossoms? By the ocean, spring arrives late. Still, the buds are

swelling on the pear tree, the maples have the reddish tint of early bloom.


Dr. Li, I like saying Dr. Li.


Your face helps me to focus, to adapt to the prevailing level of light. With smog

easing, some people now see an apparition of mountain ridges in blue space.


Is there something to fear more than death, Dr. Li? What is it you wish for? You still

engage with us, gently—


Thank you, Dr. Li. My earth will be your earth.


Leonore Hildebrandt is the author of the poetry collections Where You Happen to Be, The Work at Hand, and The Next Unknown. Her poems and translations have appeared in the Cimarron Review, Denver Quarterly, Harpur Palate, Poetry Daily, Rhino, and the Sugar House Review, among other journals. She was nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize. A native of Germany, Leonore lives “off the grid” in Harrington, Maine.