Brazier with Chain Handles (Ti Liang Lu)

a poem: brazier with chain handles (ti liang lu).

Brazier with Chain Handles Ti Liang Lu, Art Institute of Chicago

The women hold up the brazier
On their shoulders, their hands are burning,
They bend slightly under the weight but since
They are bronze they do not
Buckle.

Because there are chains
But they are not attached,
It is the women who must clasp
The pan so that other hands might
Lift.

That’s their job.
On solid footing, these workers,
On which other workers rely, are there
For their feet. They serve
As settings for staying
In the embers, where the pan the coals’ flames
Grasp until away they
Die.

To stay warm fuel must be spent.
As with time, the cinders
remain, but they too will darken
Into nothing. The women, however, crouch
No matter what. In the copper
They wear boots, robes,
They are ashen, but present.
With the time they too have turned to new
Hues.

The women, the closer I look, actually might be men.
The gender matters not. These figures have traveled
A long way, feet blistered below the copper brazier
Of which they are a part, clinging to this object
From Eastern Zhou Dynasty, Warring States
Period.

I am merely walking
Past on my way
To the contemporary
Wing. But I got caught
By the weight of their presence. I am drawn
To look closer. These metal women, or men,
Feed me. They seize me, in their
Labors.

Art Institute of Chicago, 11 Aug 2015

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