The American Journal of Poetry Volume 9 July 2020
From Concubine to Empress
Wu Zetian (624-705)
In the palace gardens, a serpent
Takes into her body the vermin.
Saved from the rodents' teeth,
Food grows plentiful and verdant.
The palace chambers are clean,
And the kitchen filled with meat.
Well-fed, the people flourish,
And many find enlightenment.
With heavy clubs and sharpened sticks,
Men hunt the serpent in the grass.
Lithe and quick, she blazes paths,
Preserving herself with cunning.
Obstacles must be swept away.
The serpent swallows her daughter.
Empress of expansion, order,
And peace, I am the serpent.
The chronicles of history
Will vindicate my deeds.