Terracotta Warriors guard their Emperor. Fifteen
archers in the al fresco dining area, a four-car garage
full of foot soldiers. The Emperor is damp
with middle age and dawn dew, askew
on a banana lounge, his dressing gown unhitched.
The High Chariot and team of bronze horses
spent in the master bedroom. Bins line the street,
neighbours sleep. Soldiers will decamp with the sun,
night shadows lost in the civil dawn; he’ll miss them.
He’s found affection for their sandalled feet,
learned to accommodate their placid foment. The sun
will rise over half built mansions. His daughter
has not returned. There have been boys aiming rocks
at her window, quartz pebbles through the night air,
neat parcels of intent. The infantry have reported.
Secrets have passed through the ranks, a ragged, worried
line to his ear. She carries his devious blood. The only
heartbeats in this house belong to his wife and their dog
as it wanders between the ranks. They are a family shuffling
toward roundabouts, born in the first dust of subdivision.
His daughter has outgrown the suburban vista,
outlived artless childhood devotion, now a tussle twists
in every conversation. She rails against these ancient guards,
their empty hands, their ceramic topknots. They
are his alone. The troops bear eight faces of despair.
Rumours arrive hidden in sheafs of silk,
hugged in the dimple of lacquered bowls; cradled
by foot soldiers who lived through the nuclear birth,
The Long March, had their memories cleansed
by one hundred torrents of mercury. They say
– silver will bring gold, the canopy of wealth; still,
young love will arrive with a darkened tooth, a tattoo
behind the ear, a labourer’s inflection. These desires
deboss the blood. He hefts himself from the banana lounge,
takes a step toward an archer, stands eye to eye
and tilts to kiss; holds his lips against the cool surface.
When he draws away there are flecks of ancient paint
on his lips, the taste of clay and fealty; these mute servants
are the body of another epoch. The morning birds start,
the swimming pool filter churns. He imagines kissing his wife
with terracotta lips; wonders if she will remember
his fingertips on her, each touch a scalpel of morning dew.
Emperor of 32 Bella Vista Drive
1 May 2017