Day and night,
I copy the Diamond Sutra
My writing looks more and more square.
It proves that I have not gone entirely
insane, but the tree I drew
hasn’t grown a leaf.
—from “I Copy the Scriptures,” in Empty Chairs
Every month, the Chinese poet, photographer, and artist Liu Xia boards a train bound for the country’s north. Carrying food and books and escorted by four plainclothes police officers, she heads for a prison in the city of Jinzhou where her husband, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is serving a sentence for subversion of state power. The ritual rarely varies: rising early to get the morning train, a short visit, and the train back.