self-portrait as wu zetian

the only chinese empress for 2000 years

 

帝 is reserved for men and gods & they have no name

for me. 皇, 帝, 皇帝, emperor; 皇后, his mother, wife; and i,

 

in the palace, without him. the 后: after, behind, gone. in last night’s shadow

a man slits his stomach & spills out truth. he is loyal,

 

they said, he who wounds himself. when another spears

his own chest, we are unsurprised: the guilt traitors face

 

rise steadily from the body. whispers deliver the morning:

i will shatter easily & without him, i am less 皇, less

 

woman. in the morning, generals speak of closing borders

& note a lack of strength: perhaps

 

it is our country, perhaps it is our defense, perhaps it is

me, though that is implied, for i am a woman -

 

soft, fragile. woman, less 皇, without him. prepare, the generals

tell me: they are pressing in, from the north.

 

Contest: 
S-5 Grades 11-12