I………..I have seen
the Little Emperor—
mischievous, unabashed, baiting
in borrowed skin
dong tolling through the marketplace
offering his services for a nominal fee.
He leads, without words,
through smile and eyes alone
flesh blood bone advertisement
robed in dust baked brown
in the sun’s unremitting violence
hands nursing thin air
into something mesmeric..
One afternoon I ask him—May I take your picture,
to which he responds by flashing an upturned palm.
As soon as he is paid he strikes a pose,
voguing Marilyn or Madonna,
snap, and then again, snap—
the Little Emperor clearly relishing
the instant celebrity aroused by my camera.
It is only later,
in my room, alone,
images of the Little Emperor
spread upon the table—
that I come to understand
the true meaning of double exposure.
It begins with an Exacto,
and just the right amount of human interest.
A single blade
held up to the light
surface claims and
prosthetic names and dead skin fall away
until I am left gaping into the source of majesty, revealed.
I run through the marketplace, screaming:
I have seen the Little Emperor naked
I have seen him naked for real—
Yet no one turns to look,
I think because I left my skin
at home, and bluntly lucid
is an advertisement with
too much glare
and not enough hook.
Illustration, “The Little Emperor,” by Anthony Hassett
The New Word is a poetry submission column. Poems should be no more that 300 words, with a maximum grouping of three related poems. Before submitting, please make sure every word has been considered and the poem has been edited to the very syllable, to the rhythms of each sound and step.