The Clay Army
By Yusef Komunyakaa
When the roof of the First Emperor of Qin's tomb
caved in, six thousand life-size terra-cotta soldiers knelt
beneath its crumbling weight in the first pit,
alongside horses & chariots. Centuries before,
when the clay figures stood in perfect formation,
the rebel general Xiang Yu looted this sanctuary
of the dead, sequestering the bronze weapons
honed by these bodyguards of the afterworld
to kill the heirs of the charging drums & bells.
All their bright regimental colors are eaten away.
Their etched mouths are shaped for secret oaths.
Their eyes can see into the old lost seasons,
& their noses are dilated as if smelling lilies
in a valley. Rank is carved into each topknot,
tassel, & strand. The blind can read insignia
grooved into the uniforms. In the second pit,
in its L-shaped chamber, cavalrymen & horses
with pricked ears peer out of the red earth,
unbridled by time. Some warriors are sculpted
in unbroken taijiquan stances. In the third pit,
royal commanders huddle with scrimmages
in broken heads. The statues rise again in flanks
after they are pieced together & bandaged
with strips of wet clay. The last pit is empty,
no more than a cave, furnished with shadows
& imperial dreams from the Forbidden City.
I was awoken by our neighbor doing something to his motorcycle that involved revving the engine and hammering at 6:30 in the freakin' morning. This was not the most auspicious start to the day, and I am a bit bleary-eyed now. But we had a very lovely afternoon after retrieving Daniel from volunteering at Hebrew school and Adam from a sleepover party, since we went to Privateer Day at Fells Point in Baltimore. It was quite warm (nearly 80 degrees) and fairly crowded in Broadway Square where the vendors were, but it was beautiful by the water, where several ships were docked, including the visiting galleon Lioness and the schooners Lady Maryland and Pride of Baltimore. There were many, many costumed pirate reenactors, as well as toy and weapon sellers, a parrot rescue organization, chantey singers, jewelry and craft designers, and lots of happy people eating ice cream and drinking lemonade -- the rum on display was for show, with the real stuff indoors at the local pubs.
It may have been called "Privateer Day," but the uniform of the day was definitely more Disney (with some fetish garb thrown in) than anything from the Age of Sail.
The serious reenactors were encamped in front of the Bond Street Wharf...
...demonstrating nautical skills and crafts.
But there were also rapscallions menacing ordinary civilians.
And there were Redcoats admiring the British flag flown by the Lioness, ready to leap to her defense.
A woman in a t-shirt and jeans had brought her parrot, whom she let Adam hold.
There was even a pirate serving ice cream at Maggie Moo's.
Adam was pretty fried after getting no sleep at his slumber party, so we came home for dinner after walking around in some of the shops in Fells Point, which in my youth had practical nautical equipment but nowadays has fancy replicas and upscale home furnishings and clothing. In the evening I folded laundry and we watched HBO's Grey Gardens, which I wasn't sure I would like because I love the original documentary upon which it is based, but Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore both gave terrific performances (much better than Jeanne Tripplehorn's Jackie Onassis, who had a better New England accent but nothing else reminiscent of Jacqueline Bouvier, Little Edie's cousin). And the Nationals managed to lose a game in extra innings that they led until the ninth, after starting off with a grand slam. Go Orioles!