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By Sharon Wong

Image: Joe Benke, Fairfax

 In a democracy, there is first that most splendid of virtues equality before the law. Secondly it has none of the vices of monarchy: for all offices are assigned by lot, all officials are subject to investigation and all policies are debated in public.
– Herodotus, The Histories, III, 81

We wear porcelain masques,
you and I,
gleaming cheeks
like oiled skins of oriental warriors,
painted blushes, rivulets and swirls of
ancestral blood

to adorn crests of
victorious claims to love.
Little king,
before I condemn you
for treason,
corruption of our liberties,

our rights, our hearts
I join with you in a sort of
grotesque matrimony,
skeletal hands
bound by a
single ring –

We find it hard to perform
objectively, calmly, perfectly.
It is not enough
to sigh, grunt, moan
at the right times

as fingers tick
ballot slip boxes,
daring to score through names inscribed
in our paper skins,
relishing the touch of metal

upon flesh
to store memories of
amendments and civilian protection,
green-black tattoos of
our law.

No, it is not democracy;
though there are cries for
Demos! Demos! Demos!
Split jury: Half condemning, punitive shrew,
half forgiving, curious
for unforeseen consequences of clementia,

(though we threw Tiberius into the Tiber)
and we are the twisted voyeurs
of the exposed webs of our individual threads,
waiting for the abhorred shears
of the ghastly, beautiful Morta.

We almost love each other
for the glassy smooth peal of china glaze shields,
shields painted on plates placed before us,
from which we are fed piecemeal sludge of
factory formed feasts.

We who sit blind as
votes were cast without us,
who cry in civilised outrage for
Kratia! Kratia! Kratia!
Yet struggle to rise to claim the

double-edged throne of swords.