General Qiang stood in King Xau’s tent
with the king’s other generals
and the king’s advisors
and the king’s guards
and the king’s serving boy
and the king himself,
the tent crowded with men,
rank with sweat.
The young king sat on a stool,
Qiang hadn’t slept last night.
In the tent, the talk moved
“No,” said the king.
“Even so,” said an advisor,
The advisor turned to Qiang.
Qiang looked at the advisor,
Every horse in the Red King’s army
Qiang looked at the advisor and said,
“Even if inaction now leads to defeat later?”
Into the stretching silence,
The king’s gaze rested on Qiang, anchoring him.
Qiang touched his hand to his heart,
The tent crowded with men,
Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but became a naturalized US citizen in 2003. Her poetry credits include Atlanta Review, Apex Magazine, Dreams & Nightmares, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, and Star*Line. More of her work-in-progress may be read at thesignofthedragon.com. She says:
I wrote “The Matter of the Horses” a year after I first started writing about King Xau. I’d been thinking about how Xau’s advisors and generals would urge him to exploit his power over horses, and how he would react to that. When I let General Qiang into the poem, it acquired its own identity.