Monday’s Verse 9-8-2008

Dear kids,

I’m dealing with limited resources today since I write to you from a public computer terminal at, kid you not, the Queens County Courthouse. Now I know what some of you are thinking: another drunk & disorderly? And I know what others among you are thinking: aww, he’s SAVING someone from deportation!

Alas no, I’m on jury duty, and my seven-word review is: Even worse than the Pauly Shore movie. Lucky for us Mr. Yusef Komunyakaa is still publishing poetry that appears in online resources. You can scour your archives for info on Mr. Komunyakaa; all I’m going to tell you is that he’s a badass. This computer only gives me 10 minutes of access, so I’m gonna have to leave the nuts-and-bolts analysis to you, gentle reader. But c’mon, it’s in couplets–how hard can it be, right?



When the roof of the First Emperor of Qin’s tomb
caved in, six thousand life-size terra-cotta soldiers knelt

beneath its crumbling weight in the first pit,
alongside horses & chariots. Centuries before,

when the clay figures stood in perfect formation,
the rebel general Xiang Yu looted this sanctuary

of the dead, sequestering the bronze weapons
honed by these bodyguards of the afterworld

to kill the heirs of the charging drums & bells.
All their bright regimental colors are eaten away.

Their etched mouths are shaped for secret oaths.
Their eyes can see into the old lost seasons,

& their noses are dilated as if smelling lilies
in a valley. Rank is carved into each topknot,

tassel, & strand. The blind can read insignia
grooved into the uniforms. In the second pit,

in its L-shaped chamber, cavalrymen & horses
with pricked ears peer out of the red earth,

unbridled by time. Some warriors are sculpted
in unbroken taijiquan stances. In the third pit,

royal commanders huddle with scrimmages
in broken heads. The statues rise again in flanks

after they are pieced together & bandaged
with strips of wet clay. The last pit is empty,

no more than a cave, furnished with shadows
& imperial dreams from the Forbidden City.



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