The Emperor’s Dragon By Barbara Leonhard

            Upon visiting China in 2008

Bone to bone with natives,

I capture a sight once forbidden

by the kingdom – the Emperor’s Throne.

Guarded by Fu Lions,

heated by deep cauldrons

brewing the spoils of valiant conquests,

this gilded dragon swallows me.


He carries me breathless

along the serpentine spine of the Great Wall

into the shadows of ancient sentries

guarding the emperor’s treasures –

jade, silk, porcelain, golden wares.

Shaped, woven, carved, etched to perfection.


The dragon scans a landscape

of daily toil. Country roads lined

with carts of fruits, vegetables.

A farmer’s wife waves as I snap pictures

of her roosters, hens, pigs.


We descend over rubble of bricks

to Suzhou’s secrets. Legends,

bound in parchment sealed by scholars.

Their triumphs, their duty tested in cages.


At a city park in Nanjing,

people walk their dogs,

play Tai Chi, fly kites,

dance to music from ‘Grease”,

display their caged birds.


At People’s Square in Shanghai,

a wide-eyed girl with long, black braids,

a frilly pink dress, and white pumps

waves from the KFC.


Vendors line the city walkways

with silk slippers, gilded bags, wooden combs.

Fishers sort their catches.

In the alleys, shirtless men

blow smoke over Mahjong tiles.


The dragon maneuvers with chaotic screams

as two young girls on pink mopeds

dart between students on bikes.


Families in cars, workers on buses,

all frantically move head on

into a silent agreement to part ways.

Barbara Leonhard has several publishing credits, such as memoir pieces, poetry, and articles published online and in print in the U.S., and her poetry has been featured several times on Bloomsbury Radio in London, England. Her poetry has won awards and recognition. She was voted Author of the Month on Spillwords in October 2021. She is the author of the Amazon best-seller Three-Penny Memories (EIF-Experiments in Fiction, 2022) and is the new editor for MasticadoresUSA. She has loved helping poets to connect on Zoom during the Pandemic.


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