“An Antique Chinese Red Chest” by Robert Duvall

My red lacquered Chinese chest sits there
older than it was when I bought it
from an asphalt lot made over for Saturday sales,
too big for the room, too red, and not
very useful, except for stockpiled sweaters
including the old red one with a moth hole
that once was my favorite in college,

so running my hand over the smooth surface
as if the lacquer could cover a secret,
I wonder what it was like in old China,
long before Red China, when warlords made
war with bronze axes blood red
then forced themselves for a moment
on diminutive women in bound feet,
while craftsmen fit the wood parts perfectly
obviating any lines or joints, and making
of one block of red a timeless thing,

and I wonder, did those old men dipping
their brushes like quill pens in red ink

for the finish, and their chop, think of growing old,
or of battle, or women they wanted, or only the work.

_________________________________________
Robert Duvall is a lapsed professor of English, a passionate opera fan and frustrated tennis player, who lives in New York, where he loves to walk, watch, and write.

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