The Little Emperor

little emperor

(In memory of Anthony Hassett, and in response to his artwork)
I have seen
the Little Emperor—
mischievous, unabashed, baiting
in borrowed skin
dong tolling through the marketplace
offering his services for a nominal fee.
He leads, without words,
through smile and eyes alone
flesh blood bone advertisement
robed in dust baked brown
in the sun’s unremitting violence
hands nursing thin air
into something mesmeric.
One afternoon I ask him—May I take your picture,
to which he responds by flashing an upturned palm.
As soon as he is paid he strikes a pose,
voguing Marilyn or Madonna,
snap, and then again, snap—
the Little Emperor clearly relishing
the instant celebrity aroused by my camera.
It is only later,
in my room, alone,
images of the Little Emperor
spread upon the table—
that I come to understand
the true meaning of double exposure.
It begins with an Exacto,
and just the right amount of human interest.
A single blade
held up to the light
gently excising
surface claims and
false derivatives.
        by bit
                    by bit
prosthetic names and dead skin fall away
until I am left gaping into the source of majesty, revealed.
I run through the marketplace, screaming:
I have seen the Little Emperor naked
I have seen him naked for real—
Yet no one turns to look,
I think because I left my skin
at home, and bluntly lucid
is an advertisement with
too much glare
and not enough hook.


About John Biscello

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, spoken word performer, and playwright, John Biscello now lives in Taos, New Mexico. He is the author of three novels: Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, and Nocturne Variations, and a collection of stories, Freeze Tag. His fiction and poetry has appeared in: Art Times, nthposition, The Wanderlust Review, Ophelia Street, Caper, Polyphony, Dilate, Militant Roger, Chokecherries, Farmhouse, BENT, The 555 Collective, Instigator, Brass Sopaipilla, The Iconoclast, Adobe Walls, Kansas City Voices, and the Tishman Review. His blog--Notes of an Urban Stray--can be read at Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale was named Underground Book Reviews 2014 Book of the Year.
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