A friend of mine from college leads a video tour through a billionaire’s apartment in New York City. She crosses her legs and offers a Namasté in the zen solarium, wryly models the salamander and contends this is the way a billionaire makes grilled cheese. It’s too delicious. I can’t resist a comment, but when I label it “real estate porn”, the comment is removed — inappropriate, unacceptable. Not quite shamed or even humbled, I gather my wits to fully understand the obscenity: the ten foot rain shower nozzle in the ceiling, the hand-carved marble slab for a tub, the oversized foot pool on the roof. The man who owns it made his fortune in chew bones, aquarium ornaments and flea shampoo before he mastered the art of the developer’s deal. His lifestyle is described as fully furnished, but I’ve been in kitchens where none of the chairs match, where the glasses crack, but they’re still run out among a comic array of utensils -- to catch the juice. Just like I should be right now, catching the juice, pulp and all, from those who’ve been freshly squeezed. But it’s too damned hilarious. I enjoy my little luxury of the theater of the absurd. I make my ballsy comments that offend the unapologetically ambitious. That’s me over there standing in line for a quick glimpse of the new shipment of canned beans, laughing my ass off as I finally figure out things end so badly for the antelope because the lion doesn’t get the goddamned joke.
John Locke's Lion Dance
When the dancers enter a village, they are supposed to pay their respects to the ancestors. So should they bow to the lowly rodent as the first mammal? Or hearken back further in the fossil record to our origin with the trees so that we may dance to the song of the seeds?
John Locke, I do not know if I am an empty vessel, a blank slate for blaming the power of the drum to call us together in accordance with the regal moods of the lion. I only know I have been brought before you for mimicking cats, for catching mice and birds and dispatching their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness to the scrap heap where the wills of animals wither.
But here come the acrobats to charm us with their stunts, their bursts and leaps in the streets, their displays of strength to chase away the silly Buddha. See how the head shakes furiously, determined to bring the crowd to its feet and cheer the reach for the red envelope that will be brought back to the troupe.
John Locke, is your liberty the ability to do what you want to others, to make them taste the sweetness of obedience? I am convinced you must still be curious about how your ancestors deferred to majesty, their wide-eyed witness to the earth dynasty, their allegiance to all that is unseen, their admiration for the old songs of the cycads about the future of the chimpanzees.
-- Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books 2009) and The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012). His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Mad Hatters’ Review, Indiana Review, Metazen, Ninth Letter, Sein und Werden, Notre Dame Review, The Really System, Konundrum Engine Literary Magazine, The Journal, The Volta, Parthenon West Review, Caliban, and many other journals in the U.S. He appears as Victor Schnickelfritz at the poetry and poetics blog The Great American Pinup and the poetry video blog Linebreak Studios. He is also editor of Bald Trickster Press and Clade Song. He is the vice president and events coordinator of The Sacramento Poetry Center.