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Joel Lane, from The Autumn Myth

The Mandate

As the first ripples of the crowd's laughter
struck the air like a window breaking
to let in a fresh autumn breeze,
the Emperor lifted a bare arm
and slowly wiped away a tear.
"Oh child," he said gently, "if only
you knew how much strength that laughter
gives to the enemies of our nation.
Laugh, child, laugh. I weep for you
and for us all." The laughter died
as if someone had tripped a switch.
The boy looked around, dumbstruck.
Many hands reached out for him
as bottles were smashed, stones picked up.

Three days later, the Emperor was returned
to power by a safe majority.
The swearing-in ceremony was broadcast
so the nation could see a proud man
building on his past, wearing cloth
to cover his nipples, cock and arse:
thin strips of some pale fabric
so pure, so delicate, it could almost
have been the skin of a child.