poem24 Jan 2021 07:44 pm
Empress Dowager Cixi of China, by a court painter, mid 1800s

Mary Soon Lee

At the center of all things,
a fountain in a garden.

Five yards from the center,
beneath a willow tree,
Ling Hua, Empress of China,
sat cross-legged
listening to the water
chattering to itself
in the hour after dawn,
the hour of consecration.

Her left knee ached.
She wished for her youth, long gone;
wished for a cup of green tea;
wished she could sail
right round the Earth's rim,
to see, as the great navigators had,
the line where ocean became sky.

A sparrow hopped onto the stone wall
of the fountain, bent down,
splashed busily.

Ling Hua, Empress of China,
watched the sparrow
while she sat beneath the tree,
five yards from the center of all things
(according to the astronomers' measurements),
that small separation a token
of her own imperfection.

For the stars and the sun and the moon
swept each in their perfect courses
around Earth's great disc,
but all who were born of women
were fallible.

Three hundred and eighty-two years
since China proved that it centered
not merely the Earth,
but the Universe.

Ling Hua bowed her head,
promised to safeguard China
from the least sparrow
to the oldest man.

Her knee ached as the stars spun round her.

One Response to “The Middle Kingdom”

  1. on 08 Feb 2021 at 8:18 am SFPA January 2021 Round-Up – SPECPO

    […] poem, “The Middle Kingdom,” Polu Texni, 1/2021, http://www.polutexni.com/?p=10750 […]

Trackback this Post | Feed on comments to this Post

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.