(a) those that belong to the emperor

26 April 2015

I

There are those you expect him to own and those of which he is
not yet aware

those catalogued and counted and those he hasn’t thought to
dream up

those he tolerates on account of his daughter and those in which
she takes no interest

those permitted access to the inner palace and those who are
denied it

those who have names and those in whom no names can be found

those that divide into like parts and those that don’t

those that announce their presence, waiting on the threshold for a

sign, and those which cannot be perceived by the senses

those that are singular and those whose numbers increase without
limit

red ones

and finally those that hesitate between this world and the last, that
exist only in the mouths of those who should know better. So it
is that when he hears of a water demon made of the parts of
other animals––the body of an otter, the spurs of a rooster, the
bill of a duck––he nods in approval, dismisses the consul. In
such an animal, he wonders, perhaps even he cannot believe.

II

You say you name things according to their nature
but flat-foot doesn’t half describe it. Water-mole
is better, but you wonder if you don’t need
new ways of seeing, especially when the teapot
tells more about the room than it does about the tea
when the stables disclose the eastern gate but don’t
lead anyone to water. You scrawl
your name
on a scrap
of paper, drop it in the stream.
And then, unwrapping folds of silk
among and amongst the reeds
again and against the clouds
thudding you think: the parts correlate, but where’s
the integrity? Better to see properties as qualities
a felt reality, wet ankles. You know
you could spend all day
describing the colour of the doorframe
or just say duck-egg––either they get it
or they don’t.

So turn the page, feel the stiffened fur. You think:
this beast now belongs to (b) embalmed ones.
You think: only motives are ulterior.
You think: tomorrow
the provinces.

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