The Empire

To Joseph Norton and Jose Sarria

The Empire does not exist and its Emperor and Empress have never met. Its boundaries are clear, distinct and unrecognized; the edicts of its plenipotentiary powers are ignored. Nevertheless, it is felt. Its army is faceless, anonymous and singular, its soldiers shape-changers. Like the Old Man of the Sea, in fighting they are now a bull, now a fire, now a tree–whatever the situation demands.

Respect is a complicated thing. It is given, never taken; demanded, but not granted. The Empire exists, and does not exist; asserts itself and regards itself. In the streets between the bars and the jails, its citizens in exile are singing their national anthem to their brothers and sisters within. The Emperor’s ghost stands watch on its parapets, his cane held martially before his face. He has known what is to be arrested: in his Imperial humility, he pardoned his gaolers. What else could he have done?

The Empire overlays the real. It is a thought of a thought: a piece of political metafiction. Its Courts are everywhere, and ineradicable. Its passports carry no visas, only the Black Cat’s head and the empire’s motto: I am what I am.