The emperor is marching again.
We all know he’s an exhibitionist at heart,
a man with a flair for the dramatic
and a craving for adulation.
The crowd around me long ago learned to avert their eyes.
His sagging breasts and flaccid penis don’t phase them in the least.
In fact, I think some of them have contrived to convince themselves
that the sheerest organza covers the man’s protruding belly and stark white legs.
I’ve learned to retreat into my own head,
where I conjure images of a different man—
almost as naked as our tired tyrant—
wearing only ribbons of red and white linen.
A little boy once raised his pipsqueak voice
and announced what we all knew.
He was flogged for his innocent audacity
and made to march behind the bare ass assaulting our eyes now.
If I were innocent enough or brave enough or even faithful enough,
I, too, would raise my hand and raise my voice and raise my shirt
to receive the astonished looks, the nervous laughter, and the biting lashes.
Instead I’ll stand here and pray for strength or a gap in the wall big enough for me.