The Terracotta Army


The terracotta warriors they call them.

Yet peaceful and often smiling they stand with their topknots and shoes, and without swords.

A few rest on the ground, asleep.

What is our role in this play? To witness the greatness, the whims of an Emperor who never had any misgivings about destroying human life so that he may have a place in heaven and fight the armies of the beyond?

The beauty and calm of all the warriors – what are we to make of them? Should we make something of them?

The sheer size and details are astounding: the perfection of the eyes and the wrinkles on the foreheads of the generals, the slight bellies and pointed shoes of the mid-level officers, and the peaceful faces of the common soldiers standing erect.

They seem to be waiting as though to welcome rather than to fight. Maybe history is just a trick and what the Emperor wanted as threatening, comes to us as peaceful and silent.


Illustration: A photo I took at the Terracotta Army site built in 210-209 BCE, following the orders of Qin Shi Wang, First Emperor of China – Xi’an, China, June 2018.


In the large temple,
the gilded Buddha and Bodhisattva statues towered over me.
Their bodies stiff,
their eyes sharing nothing.

It is the lotus that spoke to me.
In silence,
it taught me humility
and simple beauty.


Inspired by a visit to the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai, China in June 2018. The same thing happened to me when I visited the giant Buddha in Kamakura, Japan, a few years ago. It was in a rose tilting under the weight of rain drops that I found serenity, not the giant metal statue.


The world is filled with so much noise.

I am not talking about the limpid note of the Ney
nor the melodies of the nightingale falling in love with the rose.
Those – I hear in poems.

I am talking about the strident sounds of war and destruction,
the ones that deafen me beyond the silence of the screen.

These sounds are thick and tainted with green,
the dirty green of shame.
And no matter how much I try to shield my heart,
they penetrate me to the bone.

So what am I to do?

Of course I want to fill the world with the sounds of laughter
and look above the clouds and under the tables of elegant ladies.

Of course I want to love. Really love.
Love the man at the corner bent like a half burnt candle
and the little girl calling with her deep dark eyes in the mists of rubble.

And I want to kiss. Really kiss. With tenderness.
Like a child holding a seashell in the palm of his hand.

And I want to share. Share everything.
Melting butter on warm bread,
the smile of my son as he falls asleep,
and the immense sky above my house.

I want to trace with my fingers the scent of jasmine
then gently caress my wounds and the ones of the world.

And then maybe, just maybe,
the warmongers will stop and
silence will no longer deafen
becoming the soothing one so many poets write about.