Want to keep up to date with poetry translation news? Sign up to our infrequent email newsletter
Over 40 years
at the cutting edge
of poetry publishing

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.