"The King Lear Glee Club" - David Noah

"The King Lear Glee Club" - David Noah

The only member of the King Lear
Glee Club and Dancing Society
meets this morning on a bus stop bench
in the Kroger parking lot to perform
the Off This Mortal Coil Shuffle.
His hair is ruffled,
his mouth is agape in an empty O—
O! O! O! O!—
while only his own fingers
play on his xylophone ribs.

He rises to scuttle crabwise among the Pontiacs
and Chryslers, peering into their windows
to sneer at the food wrappers and baby seats,
occasionally keying a perfect car door
with a precisely inscrutable line.  He bends
to see his hair-choked face in a side view mirror
and weeps to find it there.

The grocery store draws him in
and he makes his entrance with stiff pride—
the magical doors open at his kingly command—
but no one looks.  He bellows, retreats,
going out to go in again, sure this time
that the muzak plays for him,
that the florescent lights shine to ennoble his royal brow,
that the silver linoleum has been laid for his own bare feet.

He orders his sullen subjects to shop, 
to pick vegetables and push carts,
to edge away from him in silent awe 
and well-deserved respect as he stomps
and titters, rehearsing the arguments
proving his divinity—which is evident
in the cereal aisle where angels find bran flakes,
in the meat and poultry section where he sees signs
forked into the bare bodies of dead animals,
in the perfumed pharmacy stinking of corporeal decay,
in the candy treats on shelves too low to reach,
for what sane king would bend for mere sugar,
and in the narrow-eyed stare of his fool
who gathers baskets and mocks his own mockery with secret love.

Or does he?  What is the bottom of mockery,
where is its top?  Peel back the ordered linoleum tiles
and the abyss crouches, scissor open the roof
and find empty air, entangle the nerves with bargains,
and you will save nothing.  

Nothing in the parking lot
nothing among the vegetables
nothing in the dairy products
nothing in the empty registers.

He stumbles outside where a storm gathers
above the automobiles.  I forgive you, lightning,
he mutters, but not that bitch Cordelia.  
By his mad decree the winds roar
the sky boils and the clouds hurl their cataracts
till the power lines snap.
And then the darkness comes.

Crazy proud blind Lear staggers a two-step 
and opens the first unlocked car door he finds,
sits dripping on the plastic-covered throne,
places knuckled hands on the great wheel.
Turn, he begs.  Turn.

(photo by David Noah)

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