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  • Writer's pictureJack D. Harvey

The Yellow Emperor

When the last lithe leopard

in the emperor's crowded preserve

leapt down from his arboreal perch

pink-mouthed and mottled,

where was the degenerated emperor,

taped and bandaged,

with all his skill for naught and

disowned by his own people,

slowly, grandly, greedily dying?

Nowhere else but

still as stone

in the hospital,

such as it was,

his golden skin wan

in the crepuscular hospital light.

Was it his own disease,

newly invented,

or whose disease was it?

Lengthy discourse

rattling out of the

discountenanced doctor,

made clear the cancer or

so he called it,

was the last stop on the line.

Brutish cells, voyaging

in giant argosies of destruction

turn yellow to sallow

and, dappled with deceit,

dangerous sympathetic

friends and courtiers

dimly seen, daily on view

became more distinct,

more sovereign,

as death clumped closer

and the flesh, forever awake,

became a burden.

Death as a unicorn

in nurse's uniform

bides his time,

patient as Griselda

among bottles and needles.

Toward the last morning,

fading with the stars

the Yellow Emperor saw clear

as alpine forests, close as lovers

the luminous jade-green eyes

of a dragon, watchful and quiet,

watched it fade

to its beautiful oblivion of myth

and the emperor arose,

a live wire of life and strength,

leaving cap and clothes,

leaping through the dawn

he went, bright as the Paschal lamb

he went, bright as the morning he went,

dancing to the harmony and peace

of nothing at all,

to eternal heavenly equivalence;

kingpin of the indeterminate,

internal joyful void

where all power and life begin.


Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Typishly Literary Magazine, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and elsewhere. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies.

The author has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.


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