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Palace of Whispers
Jerry Gordon
The yellow emperor strolled with the poet through his palace. Past the temple of birdsong. Past the window where the moons are released. Moving through room after room, they walked at a vague distance from one another, seemingly not together at all. This was a gesture of deep respect, like the manner in which strangers pass and leave not a trace of obligation on each other's hearts. Light steps in bare feet on the stone floor. The emperor's yellow robe wiping the surface of ancient mountains. The teeming veins in the rock appearing from under his robe's hem like roads drawn across a map.

They walked slowly, speaking barely above a whisper, as that was the way in the palace. No one stands too close to the emperor. No one speaks louder.

Turning corners along the vast corridors, the poet listened to the sibilant percussions of wind that floated to his ear from the emeror's lips; making understandings from half meanings half heard. Poetry. Stroking his beard as the emperor vanished behind a doorframe. The silence ensuing. The gift of patience. The poet found the end of his line. At the Hall of the Insect Dead, the poet turned his head to see an endless expanse of floor on which an infinite number of tiny stupas had been erected to house the relics of mosquitos and dragonflies and all the rest of the ephemeral insect past. He spoke softly of the numbers he could not count. They moved on and conversed at five meters apart, bridging what was not heard with trust, completing utterances with echos they let arise in their minds.

How else does one journey to where one cannot go?

There were few personal pronouns. In fact, in the palace, the grammar itself had long developed into a special fragility. A syntax of dissolve. One spoke of nature so as to not say one's name too often. Ambiguities were extended as gifts beyond value. A word was placed next to a word, again and again. Sentences never the goal.

The emperor pushed the edge of a great door, voicing his words above a whisper, "My throne." The door swung out onto the blue-black night sky.

The emperor made a gesture with his hand which meant: "You can write this down."

The poet knew this did not mean putting pen on paper. In this, meanings became meaningful.

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