Changsha beauty

Carried by servants
in a curtained sedan-chair
common people fearing my gaze
heads touching dust as I passed
I see it so clearly now
my beauty
wasted on just one person
though a high Imperial Official

Cocooned in twenty layers
of gossamer silk
light as mountain mist
sealed in this coffin
vast as a room
made of foot-thick timbers
hewn from giant cypress
from distant parts
buried deep in river silt

Two thousand years in isolation
I pondered my regret
adrift on a sea of nothingness
searching the horizon of a sensual void
when suddenly
I was startled by a knock
soon my body was on a slab
white-masked men with glinting knives
stood poised above me

My organs diaphanous
delicate as moth wings
excised preserved in formalin
my body displayed under glass
now people daily come in thousands
peer down upon me in wonder
and I gaze back content
for is it not the duty of beauty to be seen?

In 1972-4, on the outskirts of Changsha, Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) tombs were excavated. One contained the well-preserved corpse of the wife of the Chancellor of the Kingdom of Chu. An autopsy was carried out. The whole body was moist and supple, organs intact and skin flexible. The corpse and organs are displayed in the Hunan Provincial Museum, Changsha.


© Ron Wilkins

Peter Macrow,
Tasmanian Times Poetry Editor.
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For the complete collection, click here: Poetry, Peter Macrow

Ron Wilkins