People’s New Clothes by Yi Wu

People’s New Clothes

Long ago an emperor ruled his realm
Of citizens in awe of elegant fashion,
And his generous soul made passion bloom
To give most flowery clothes known to sight.
Revered as father who has to rear
Ten thousands children to be wise,

He loathed to be said otherwise,
Cherishing unity on this realm
As greatest legacy of his career.
A declaration in most regal fashion
Soon came to all citizens’ clearest sight
To seek most able men fittest for loom.

In no time the good news went on to loom
Over people’s eyes, no time to ask whys.
All given free hats at the sacred site,
The most upright and colorful, the realm
Celebrated in such merry fashion
And decorated chariots front and rear.

The hats, glistening with feathers at rear,
“Quite splendid”, he said, “but it’s only gloom
For hearts built in unpatriotic fashion,
As lacking love for country is not wise,
And stupid men are banned from, on my realm,
Enjoying beauty of hats with eyesight.”

They thought the hats had magical insight.
The truth kept men’s words behind their rear –
No one could see any hats on the entire realm.
Shame of disloyalty began to loom
Over the depth of their minds – it’s wise
To keep things in a reticent fashion.

Rejoiced, he issued one more item of fashion –
A pair of trousers most pleasant to sight,
Visible to only the chaste and wise,
With red dye and golden seams so rare.
“The empire’s weavers, the empty loom,
Start work to cover body’s nether realm.”

The realm’s most humble who knew no fashion
Instead wore his heirloom into gravesite
Where his wife, with bare rear, asking whys.


Yi Wu is a poet based in Brooklyn, New York.

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