The First Emperor

The terracotta army stares impassive

As strangers wander round

Looking at studs and hinges reassembled

As ancient bullet-proofed armour plate -

Their own great wall [1] of defence

Protecting their sovereign's spirit [2]

From foreign invaders.


Yet the enemy within rises mercurially

Exploding to destroy the planet's peace

As this universal ruler conquers his neighbours

With megalomanic domination

So there's not a smile under a squared heaven [3]

Only intra-cranial haemorrhage

As the pressure bursts under the top-knot.


Tear down walls for freedom -

Iron curtains, electric fences, Berlin walls

Walk across Hadrian's from east to west.

Decommission weapons put beyond use [4]

Reflecting on history and their mark

Scarring a people and their countryside

Of rusted shells [5] buried with an army under sand.


26 January 2008


On Holocaust Sunday and after visiting The British Museum to view the terracotta army and The First Emperor - Qin Shi Huang, with thoughts on China's human rights record and other walls and fences, not least that between South Africa and Mozambique.


[1] Qin Shi Huang joined up several smaller walls

[2] One theory is that the terracotta army was there to defend the spirit of the emperor from evil spirits

[3] The symbol of a square hole in the middle of a round coin, said to symbolise heaven

[4] Northern Ireland

[5] We saw these rusted shells at Inhambane in Mozambique