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The Emporer

Joshua Hart


My neighbor, I’ve forgot his name,
Would mow his lawn, edge, clip, and trim
Religiously, once every week.
He must’ve been near eighty-five.
I’m twenty-six. I mow mine twice
A month, if that, and never edge
At all. The blades of grass would
Bend to his will, conforming to
His blade. He injected order
Into his universe: One lot,
A house. Nice man. He waved and smiled
Each time he saw me on the porch.
Damn, lazy kid. He might have thought.
Silly old man, conquering blades
Of grass, I laughed but smiled and waved.
Three weeks ago, they found him there
“Passed away,” they said, “in his sleep.”
‘Passed away’ sounds heaven-bound, it
Seems. Perhaps that’s why we say it.
No matter. Dead or ‘passed away’,
His conquering days are ended.
A line of cars stretched down the block.
Ones I’ve never seen out there in
The year I’ve lived across the street
From ‘What’s-his-name’, the emperor.
The people smiled, shook hands, and went
Inside, divided what had once
Been his, and loaded up his small
Empire, shook hands again, and
Drove away. Three weeks ago. The
Grass is tall from rain and loss of
Master. No one seems to notice.
But when I sit there on my porch,
I stare and feel compelled to go
And mow the old man’s grass.
Silly. Yeah, I know.