In olden days, a writer with pretension
To voice his people’s hopes in anathemata,
Would make a case for being in contention
By laying down an ode or smooth hexameter,
Before composing something with dimension
For fear he’d be exposed as a rank amateur.
Why show you’re just another two-bit schemer
And what’s more do it in ottava rima?
But there’s no time for lengthy preparation:
The game’s a foot, time ripe, the need is now.
The fate of the Republic’s our vexation:
Whether we get through these four years, and how.
When a sham ignoramus runs the nation,
Who cares if I’m sufficiently high-brow
To catch the wretched agon of the times
Successfully in Dante’s piquant rhymes?
Lord Byron knew the mixture well: Don Juan
Incorporates the seemly and the seamy.
And given the age, I venture that a new one
Should be both sanctimonious and steamy.
To flavor our shock at thinking of who won
And help us chew, then somewhat tart and creamy
Must be my verse: to catch the zeitgeist’s mood
Demands the euphuistic and the crude.
It’s usual in this type of composition
To issue forth a ringing invocation:
A call to arms, a plea for a commission
To bind the wounds; and find an apt location
From which to make a suitable petition
Or lift the veil upon a desecration.
I need a spot where I can coalesce
Each bilious outflow in one putrid mess.
O sweet Gowanus: issue forth your scents
To cleanse my verse; your waters rank and deep
Dissolve my fetid spewing; in your dense
Alembic boil each noxious phrasing, steep
Within your iridescent current each offense,
And turn from dross to gold this steaming heap
That like compost builds life. Is it obscene
To call on you, my flush-full Hippocrene?
Where are you KENTILE sign, whose lambent beams
Once shone upon the toxic sites below?
Where are the slicks you lit, the oiltar seams,
The bodies swaying in the undertow
Of the canal? Bless all my fetid memes,
Which rise above South Brooklyn’s dirty glow,
All you who muse of soft tranquility
When stuck in traffic on the BQE.
Muse, cross the bridges: Newark’s meadows sweet,
Old Cleveland’s groves, the springs of Buffalo,
Descant upon the passing of Main Street,
Now empty, once full not so long ago.
Detroit shall echo, Gary shall repeat
That what was once created is no mo’:
For why spend time in genuine creation
When wealth is made through idle speculation?
Look! How we close our eyes, and levers yank
And buttons push (the way we refinance);
Or rub the lotto genie and so bank
Our futures on the one-in-a-million chance!
Deposits going south, stocks in the tank,
Our houses worthless. And yet, in a trance,
We reckon if we placed just one more bet
We’d magically absolve us from our debt.
Speak, Prophet, let each narcissistic byte
Gnaw at the Babel tower of this age.
Dismantle every cable droid, indict
Each billion-dollar suit, and turn your rage
Upon the posing proxies that each night
Pour forth the toxic gas that drives the gauge
That measures book advances, honoraria,
And gobs of cash spit forth for faux hysteria.
Descry, O Instant Messenger, the stores
And houses boarded up, the vacant lots
And men who cluster at the corner, scores
To settle or trace up arms, the easy shots
That have no consequence—for all the doors
Have long since been foreclosed on. Join the dots,
You gamers, for the people are in hock
For taking and not taking enough stock.
Direct your gaze toward the gilded suite
Within the Tower; settle on the sofa,
And ponder as the bully deigns to meet
Each sycophantic leech and fawning gopher,
How much he smirks as on their knees they bleat
For work, pretending he is not a loafer.
As long as they’re on good terms with the bruiser,
They think that he won’t shame them as a loser.
A puffed-up peacock, scabrous popinjay;
Falstaff without the grace or sack or wit;
A loathsome lech, a spawn of Rabelais;
A thin-skinned and vainglorious hypocrite.
Will be Commander of the USA:
Consider that when next you take a shit.
Let tumble from your bowels into the pan
Just what you think about this wretched man.
“But wait!” I hear you say, “he’s now our chief,
And sixty million folks can’t be mistaken.
We needed change, and Hillary’s a thief,
And now the ruling classes are left shaken,
Because of their presumption. All your grief
Is just sour grapes. And soon you will awaken
In a U.S. of A. that’s rightly ours,
In which we’ll wield full presidential powers.”
My answer to these claims of right is “No.”
No to accepting that this harlequin
Has any right to strut and primp and crow.
I see no cause to offer him my chin
To punch. This baldfaced Braggadoccio
Will not go underided. If I sin
It would be in not being hard enough
Upon the flaunting, pompous piece of fluff.
“But what about Obama?” comes the cry,
“The Muslim atheist, the Communist,
The enemy within, the Kenyan spy,
The interloping, two-faced terrorist,
With his transgendered wife?” A desperate try
To stigmatize a couple who’ll be missed.
Your fears were never real, just fever dreams:
Unlike your man; for he is as he seems.
What standards the Obamas had to meet!
They couldn’t get mad, they couldn’t name and shame,
Or marry twice or thrice. They couldn’t tweet
Insults, or ridicule, or just defame.
Their kids had to be kind and smart and sweet,
Michelle considerate and without blame:
They always had to leave a good impression
And not commit a solitary transgression.
And now we are confronted with this Nero
Who’ll fiddle as the planet burns: his pride
And vanity unmatched; the perfect hero
For this land, where all flagrancy’s denied,
Compunction shunned, and where a total zero
Can make torture a virtue, and deride
As enemies within those who attempt
To offer another vision. What contempt!
Is it not weird he has no hinterland?
No book or film or play that moved his soul,
No cultural lodestars, neither small nor grand,
That left him vulnerable or made him whole?
It seems that all is surface (and it’s tanned),
A world of flash and shimmer, without toll:
No sense of loss or sorrow or regret.
Good grief, he doesn’t even have a pet!
What will he do when he is called to grieve
When natural disaster strikes the nation?
A tweet will not suffice, will not relieve
The pain of lives destroyed; nor adoration,
Disdain, or ridicule help us believe
The leader knows the sting of deprivation.
When hugs need to be given, will he reel?
Or, arms extended, will he cop a feel?
More worryingly still, when terror hits,
As it most surely will, will he react
Judiciously, advisedly? Or blitz
A city, region, country when attacked
To prove his manliness? Or blow to bits
Each treaty, bloc, agreement, and compact:
To give the terrorists just what they need,
And fill the beds once more at Walter Reed?
Perhaps the Prez will be as disengaged
As George Bush was in his first months: content
To go on victory tours and get enraged
At SNL, while trying to foment
Some phony crisis so he’s not upstaged
By the dull busyness of government.
He’ll sit counting his future bucks and cents
And leave the Executive branch to Veep Mike Pence.
The danger is he’ll think he knows it all:
Filling the airwaves with his contradictions.
There’ll be perpetual conflict, and in thrall
To all the fires he sets and all the fictions,
Distracted by the thrill of daily brawl,
We’ll spend our outrage feeding our addictions.
Meanwhile the Congress will pass legislation
To end the federal administration.
Of course, one hopes that the judicial branch
Will act to halt congressional overreach;
That genuine conservatives will blanche
At efforts to undermine freedoms of speech,
Assembly, privacy; will salve or stanch
The wounds inflicted; or they’ll block the breach
Made in the wall dividing church and state,
And protect the defenseless against hate.
One might repose some hope, if just a flicker,
That senators will act, well, senatorial,
And seek out common ground to act (don’t snicker!).
If not, then it’s not too conspiratorial
To fear that this Republic (here’s the kicker),
Will fold before the frankly dictatorial:
And all that will be left will be amurcous
Game shows of unrelenting bread and circus.
But what about the notion that this chump
Will (at last!) shake things up, and, by upending,
Return some power to the people, pump
The economy with infrastructure spending,
And catapult us from this so-called slump
Into a future glory never-ending?
Of course, he might—except that he’s abstaining
From every promise that he made campaigning.
What makes this flagrant treachery more galling
Is how he savors playing us for fools.
Beyond his bluster, tantrums, and name-calling
His goal seems only to dispense with rules
To allow infractions even more appalling.
It’s all too clear that he considers tools
The folks who voted for him, suckers all,
Stick figures scrawled upon his bullshit Wall.
The coal and steel jobs are not coming back,
Obamacare’s repeal has no replacement;
The Wall will not be built, and every claque
Is lining up for inside perks. Abasement
Will be complete when every stooge and hack
Is settled into every job and space meant
For those who care for their agency’s mission,
Instead of beating it into submission.
So now we wait to see what fate will show.
The USA has been through worse—survived
The Civil War, and slavery, Jim Crow,
Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, Watergate; revived
After September 11, even so
A sense of hope is sometimes just contrived,
Reliant on exclusion and amnesia;
Dispensed through a collective anesthesia.
Of course, I hope that we are proven wrong,
And suddenly he is magnanimous:
Reforms the prisons, builds the roads, makes strong
The economy (and does it without fuss),
Returns power to where it should belong,
While not throwing the weak under the bus,
And, while admitting that he can be crude,
Ensures that only rich people are screwed.
And now we wait for the Inauguration,
Our senses frayed, and hearts and souls a-flutter,
What will he say to soothe a frazzled nation?
What soaring rhetoric will this man utter?
Will he, at last, ascend to meet the station
To which he aspired, or will he simply mutter
A few pat phrases from the autocue
Before attacking his latest bugaboo?
What will it be? Four years of garbled tweets,
Of grievance, petulance, dissimulation?
Four years of protest marches in the streets,
Met each night with a pettish lucubration?
Of dirt (financial and between the sheets),
Corruption, sleaze, and misappropriation;
Or something else? Distinction or disgrace?
We’ll find out soon enough; so, watch this space.