Empress of Heaven: The Sole Female Empress of China
When they grimace with their lusty grins and obey me with
Their scheming eyes, the officers and my servants talk behind my back as
Gossip wafts the palace
Lauding praise with words like “Emperor of Heaven,” but I am an empress,
Not an emperor.
A plaything in the royal silken sheets,
Nothing more than a pretty, bleeding face who
Battled other women for the glory and the love
Of being a royal broodmare.
His soft caresses ravish my pale back that glints in the waning light
And the candle wax drips into the rusted bowl as I count the months before I can have a son,
A bouncing baby boy, not a daughter whom I cannot love and use against the other women.
But when my daughter became a wisp of scandal as she lay in the crib as a corpse
And the reigning wife of my baby’s father was accused of murder of the innocent child
Shifting eyes turned toward me as the secret killer,
Slandering my white pristine purity with dark black ink that claimed
Me ruthless for killing my own daughter
To frame the reigning queen, to seize the title of Empress myself
As the former queen hung from the prison walls,
Crimson hands twisting the jagged shackles,
The seed of happy acceptance and glee secretly sprung from my womb in place of my lost child.
But I did not snuff the baby out with a gentle pillow,
That is a mere rumor.
The gilded throne drowns without the emperor himself,
Found poisoned in another room away from my grasp, and yet
The rumors abounded in hushed places.
When I ascend the throne with a baby, a boy this time,
As the key to my rule,
And all other insurgents fall down like dominoes,
Quietly found with a hearts that are silent or never to be found in my kingdom again,
And the sisters who dirtied my image are long gone
With strings pinching their necks, until the skin underneath blushes pink
And the brothers who were heretics who denied my god-like power
Sentenced to the punishment that befalls all capital criminals.
Were they guilty?
And my pride and joy, little baby boy,
Who could not keep his mouth shut and defied my benevolence
With caustic criticism that bleached my ears
And a tongue that lashed the pearl in my old palm.
He did not like the gift of my now royal blood,
So he propped himself up like a puppet ruler, disrespected and chided on.
It’s his fault for not accepting my once-in-an-eternity gift.
So, pushed aside, he left the stage of schemes and intrigue
And disappeared from sight.
Shaking like a leaf, my power can never hold secure as
A woman but I have transcended all norms and rules of conduct because
I never wanted to be another accessory hanging limply from my man’s arm,
As an exotic lily flower to be placed into a jailed vase
Kept under the thumb of father, husband, then son and finally lifted
To the heavens for being quiet and obedient
Yet, the command and control that He gave me when he bedded me
Steered my existence to a journey for the jade hand that twists China under its thumbs.
Country I loved, but instead slandered me in the scripts of history
A manipulative and scheming siren that slaughtered her own daughter
To steal the glowing seat that beckoned me to it.
Yet that is only a rumor.
A rumor that sickened the world because a woman could not ascend
Without trickery, deception, and evil
Sitting on that lonely chair in front of the entire kingdom
With nobody to smile with
Yet, what is a woman to do
When she wants more than the flowers and the bees?
Allison Chen is a junior from Hamilton High. She has been published in the Best Arizona Teen Writing of 2016 book and in the Paha Review.