By SuzAnne C Cole

On the third day of the hiking tour,
She, sad-faced, sixties, appeared,
sat, claiming the companion seat
for her durable backpack. Cocooned
in a membrane of distance, she
thumbed Rough Guide to China,
half listening to our cheerful guide.
Outside, orchards of ripening fruit—
apples, plums, persimmons—
Inside, chatter dried around her.

The Ming Tombs, a valley of dark earth
and still waters encircled by mountains.
Emperors’ pride preserved in great carved
gates and burial chambers. Oversize
stone statuary parades as honor guard—
mythic creatures, elephants, lions, camels,
horses, favored generals, and court officials.
Slowly walkers paced the willow-lined
Sacred Way, homeward path of the
emperors, the sons of heaven.

She paused, sank to blanket of grass,
carefully removed an urn—cloisonné—
from her backpack, cradled it to her heart.
Near enough, you’d have heard, My dearest,
observe the tombs. Impressive, aren’t they,
just as we imagined for so many years.
I knew you’d want me to continue,
wouldn’t have had me run for home.
This afternoon, we’ll walk the Great Wall.


Educated at the University of Tulsa (BA in English) and Stanford University (MA in English literature and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow), SuzAnne C Cole taught English at Houston Community College for many years. After she received Teacher of the Year in 1992 and coauthored two freshman English textbooks and a literature handbook, she retired from teaching to concentrate on her writing career and travel widely. She writes from a studio in the Texas Hill Country. Both her poetry and fiction have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes; she won the Binnacle Poetry award in 2011 and many other regional awards. Her work has appeared in Front Porch Review, New Purlieu Review, Newsweek, Sugar Mule, Whistling Fire, and The Write Place At The Write Time, as well as a variety of commercial and literary publications and anthologies. She has had the pleasure of studying with Pattiann Rogers, Simone Di Piero, and Tony Hoagland, among others.

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