ryan quinn flanagan | under this long knife quarter moon sky

Under This Long Knife Quarter Moon Sky

The emperor
married his sister
then rubbed lead all over
his face
(as was royal custom)
and then
he ate gold leaf and mutton
off the honey-drenched navels
of his dinner guests
(more of a personal custom)
before dismembering
everyone who had come
to dinner
with a hacksaw
and ordering their bodies parts
be thrown
in a well.

It was the same each night,
and the emperor soon began to worry
that he would run out of subjects
to have over for dinner.
The aristocracy, long gone,
the emperor was now down to millwrights
and their wives.

One night –
after a particularly large dinner –
a brave advisor spoke up
and asked the emperor
why he felt the need to dismember
his dinner guests.

All the other advisors
retreated to the shadows
to play hide
and seek.

The emperor stared down blankly
at the one brave advisor
and explained his reasoning:

Man is ambitious and greedy.
Woman is treacherous and plotting.
But fractions of man and woman are a lot less threatening
than the whole.
Man and woman can be divided
and sub-divided into parts
like a pie
until you only have to deal
with one small piece
at a time.

The advisor wondered what kind of pie
the emperor thought he was
before praising the wisdom of the emperor
and asking to be

But the emperor was already busy
applying honey to the royal nipples
and suckling at his sister
like a hummingbird
works over
a passion

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