A Guest Post by John Sexton
The Irish Quarter
"The Marsh Drains Into The Deep"
by John Sexton
As the woman gave birth to five sons a gray tiger entered by a window and ate the newborns one by one.
Outside, the moon shone down, its face as if stained with tears. Stooped willows trailed their hair into the glistening river; nightbirds stirred in the shadows. At his table the Emperor drank tea from a jade bowl. He slouched unhappily, his dream still fresh. Moonlight filtered in through the slats of the bamboo screen as the Emperor blew gently into the bowl.
Opposite sat the Empress, her face sliced by moonlight. Even now she looked beautiful, her hair as silver as the moon. Her eyes had the subdued luster of jade; her dark skin wrinkled like the folds of an exquisite peony. As she looked at the Emperor she knew he was unsettled, but they sat there in silence.
He would tell her if he could, for a dream is but a dream. But he sat there unspeaking. On the borders of his kingdom his armies were massing against the enemy. The signs had been auspicious. The oracle had told him to keep to his course. “The marsh drains into the deep,” it had said. “All accrues to greatness.” His advisers agreed this boded well.
The Empress rose and turned to go, her silk gown shining in the moonlight, its embroidered dragons stirring.
The Emperor gazed into his tea. In its dark mirror he pondered the war. On the battlefield his sons were preparing for daylight.
John W. Sexton (Republic of Ireland) is a poet, short-story writer, dramatist, children’s novelist, radio scriptwriter, and broadcaster. He is the author of three collections of poetry, The Prince’s Brief Career (Cairn Mountain Press, 1995); Shadows Bloom / Scáthanna Faoi Bhláth, a book of haiku with translations into Irish by Gabriel Rosenstock; and, most recently, Vortex(Doghouse, 2005). He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTE radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes. His novels based on this series, The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed are both published by The O’Brien Press, and have been translated into Italian and Serbian. Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons Of Shiva, which has been released on Track Records.
My great thanks to John for doing me the honor of allowing me to publish this great story