INSTINCTS #29: ‘Ming Dynasty Cats’ by Mary Soon Lee

Poetry time! Please enjoy the latest work by one of our favorites, Mary Soon Lee.


Mary Soon Lee

Who guarded the northern border
of the Middle Kingdom?
Who patrolled the Long Wall,
marched its myriad miles?

Soldiers, yes, but what of them?
Mere men, mere smell-lame men,
night-blind, tailless, clawless,
heedless of the Empire’s peril.

Cats the first and last defense
against repeated incursions
of malevolent marauder mice,
barbarian rat battalions.

And if they asked for pay,
it was little enough:
a few paper scraps to shred,
silk to bandage their wounded.

(First published in Rune 2022, April 2022)

Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but has lived in Pittsburgh for over twenty years. Her two latest books are from opposite ends of the poetry spectrum: “Elemental Haiku,” containing haiku for each element of the periodic table, was published by Ten Speed Press in 2019, and “The Sign of the Dragon,” an epic fantasy with Chinese and Mongolian elements, has been published as an ebook.

Mary’s blog:


Links to Mary’s books:

“Elemental Haiku”:

“The Sign of the Dragon”:

Poems included in The Insignia Series anthologies:

‘Training: Stances’, ‘The Horse Lord’, ‘Tsung’s Battle’, ‘The Matter of the Horses’, and ‘Respect’ (Insignia: Asian Flash Fiction & Poetry, 2019)

Special collections:

‘Meisho’s Dodos’, ‘Lantern Festival’, ‘The Eighth Son of Ganbataar’, ’Lotus Moon’, ‘The Wild Horses Came Hastening’, and ‘How to Weave the Stars’, Insignia 2020: Best Asian Speculative Fiction.

Other posts of interest:

INSTINCTS #7: ‘Midnight’ by Mary Soon Lee (June 4th, 2020)

INSTINCTS #9 ‘Bedtime’ by Mary Soon Lee (August 12th, 2020)

Author Spotlight #2 (August 27th, 2019)

Interested in submitting to INSTINCTS? Check out our Poetry Submission Page for details.

Featured Photo by Tasos Mansour on Unsplash

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