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Gates of the Iron and Clay Empire


What was my maxim? For what did I live

and for what did I perish? Beneath a gold crown,

were my waistlines eternal, and did my neck,

surrounded by jewels, as a night

places the gemstones of planets, moons and stars,

draw a crowd?

Did the fawning nation swoon when

I came out, restless

as an immense sea roaring at the composed moon

over its correction and manipulation,

harsh as salt waves, euphoric in my mouth.


In what spirit did I rule?

When I spoke words of silver,

what resounded into the room

was swimming and submerging

beneath the waters of a river

no one could cross.

I buried my face in the dust,

I offered my cheek to my enemy,

never passionless or indifferent

my motions carried into deathlessness

at a banquet whereupon death would dance.


Where was I found?

The bronze meadow was my home,

the gem of seas, all seven,

the bear mountain I knew

like the back of my hand, and the

solace of the lace of the fields

I gathered into the hem of my garment.

I touched the waters of meribah

when I drank from the crystal decanter

and forged the way through the wood

for a people: my nation.


What was my figurehead

etched upon a coin? The copper touch piece

was a keepsake and currency of a nation

emaciated and gaunt,

starving for the food of my voice—

resonant and luminous as the fruit of the vine.

My charger went forth, no more than a colt

yet I was a horsewoman.

What I could not imitate of the ardent prayer,

I swallowed and said again in my own words,

opening the heavens and descending like an eagle.


What was my lady?

The statue was iron-silent, beckoning of power,

yet elegant in infertility,

a lament with an ode to the sons and daughters

of others, bleak and illustrious—

reflecting horror as a mirror

that would leave us unconfused as to the distinct

separateness of a mother and child.

The figure held a similitude, measuring time

and distance with a tape measure

instead of a scale.


Where did I break, and fall into the heart of the sea?

Why did the chasm open to swallow me like clay

deep beneath the earth.

Infusing me with the gems of nations,

and their varied colors,

I found meaning in the little things,

and recorded the symphonies of nature.

Somehow the movement of the shadows and lights

over the earth, played like a chord

upon the harp, its stringed note lingering

into the dust of mankind.

Emily Isaacson

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