Pomegranate Flowers

The bones of the story are achingly familiar: a wastrel prince, sent to the army, returns home in glory to his father the emperor, falls in love with a slave, is exiled rather than give her up, leads an army in revolt against the empire, is caught and sentenced to death until the slave surrenders and dies in his place; the emperor softens slightly at the last and sends her into an anonymous exile instead and his son resigns himself to ruling. Curtain falls, audience applauds, you’ve heard all this before.

It’s the momentary flourishes that stick in your memory: the moody monologues by the Hindustan landmass, the prince writing poetry on the blade of his sword while bleeding, entering the court on a carpet of pearls, making love in a snowbank of flowers, the dancers whirling in the ommatidia of an enormous diamond. The slave singing mournfully in the prison and dancing defiantly in front of the emperor; the love note sent sailing down the length of the court’s internal river, attached to a toy boat; the prince, lonely against the sky in front of the cannon while the remnants of his defeated army sing in praise of love, of faith, of the revolutions that burn down palaces.

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