In the Emperor’s Throne

I am a stranger

In a strange land

Bone to bone with natives

Capturing a sight once

Forbidden by the kingdom –

The Emperor’s throne.

It holds secrets revealed,

Legends, unfolding like silk

In stories bound in parchment

And sealed by scholars

Tested in cages;

Their triumphs, their duty.

The Emperor’s throne,

Guarded by Fu Lions and

Heated by cauldrons

Brewing the spoils of

Valiant conquests

Ending in tombs with mercury rivers.

The Emperor’s throne

Gave birth to the Dragon,

Stretching for eras

In wakeful slumber

Tended to by the masses

And nurtured into stone.

Up his steep spine,

I am pushed and pulled breathless,

Stepping on the shadows

Of ancient sentries guarding

The Emperor’s treasures of

Jade, silk, porcelain, and gold,

Gilded, woven, carved, and

Etched to perfection

In the likeness of antiquity.

At the peak, visible to all,

The Great Beast ends –

That way of stone –

To a train station in Shanghai,

Where a doll-eyed girl with long black braids

Greets me at the KFC.

To a city park in Nanjing, where

People walk their dogs,

Play Tai Chi, fly kites,

Dance to music from ‘Grease”,

And bring their caged birds

To greet the sunrise

In the shadow of the throne.

To a country road

Lined with carts of fruit and vegetables

And a farmer’s wife waving

As I snap pictures of her

Roosters, hens, and pigs

In the gaze of the Great Dragon.

To a landscape of people

In their daily toil –

Cooks in white linen,

Fishers sorting their catches,

Vendors lining the walkways

With silk slippers, gilded bags, and wooden combs.

To a city intersection with

Young girls on pink mopeds

Darting between students on bikes,

Families in cars, and workers on buses,

All frantically moving head on into

A silent agreement to part ways.


© 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard


The Throne in the Hall of Preserving Harmony

Public Domain











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