The Trumpiad: Book 1—Canto 11

 

November 2017

I

It’s been twelve months since I cast my first vote
For president, and woke a sadder guy
The morrow morn. It’s been a year of note,
Mainly because the many reasons why
Shit happened are lethal to touch. No rote
Political response can quantify
The social pathogens that marinate,
Mutate, and spread within this wretched state.

II

A white man with a grievance and a gun
Has once more taken lives; bromides and prayers
Have been delivered; nothing will be done.
In days, another will stare through crosshairs
And murder more good men and women, one
Who wouldn’t hurt a fly. But then, who cares?
Let people kill themselves and think they’re free,
As long as I’m not in the mortuary.

III

Is the US a beacon anymore?
Do people really reason if they arm
Themselves that they can even out the score,
Or at the least protect themselves from harm?
It’s like we imagine marching off to war
Means fewer maimed and dead. I’ll bet the farm
That we’ll be dodging bullets in the street
Fired by Nazi addicts packing heat. 

IV

Meanwhile, the calls for doing something fade,
No policies are brought up for debate.
No money is allotted, while the frayed
And broken kinfolk desperately wait
For some sign that they haven’t been betrayed
Again. To lessen just a bit the rate
Of death, might Congress summon up the will
To pass even an unimportant bill?

V

It’s not as if we didn’t get how sick
And feverish we were the last eight years.
The self-congratulation and the shtick
Of the ’08 election—when the tears
Of everyone would dry (as if a quick
Volte-face could undercut systemic fears)—
Proved premature and arrogant: they rested
On smugness that had not been truly tested.

VI

We get the politics that we deserve:
The folderol, the pettiness, the lies,
The stupid pieties, failures of nerve,
The grandstanding, the cutting down to size,
The obloquy, the donor-lobbies’ verve
In grabbing all they can, the faux surprise
At felonies and sleaze. One antidote?
Getting one’s fat ass off the couch to vote.

VII

This month this obvious fact was proven true,
When Democrats came to the polls en masse.
Electors voted for contenders who
Rebuked the casual malice of a crass
And stupid vagabond, without a clue.
From every region, gender, shape, and class
They came: they even voted for (Hosanna!)
A black man to be mayor in Montana!

VIII

Of course, one should admit that these successes
Don’t demonstrate the Democratic Party
Is ready for primetime. No random guesses
Or fiendish cleverness of Moriarty
Are necessary to conclude that stresses
Of life with 45 led to the hearty
Rebuff of the GOP through the land.
That’s something Democrats must understand. 

IX

We’ve now learned that the bankrupt DNC
Was last year in hock to Clinton’s campaign,
Which shows how center-leftists fail to see
That power matters, yes, but the terrain
Of politics is broad, and each municipality
Offers the chance for candidates to gain
Proficiency and skills, and put a dent
In the great power of the president. 

X

Yet, when I hope the net is closing in,
The sands of time are (at last) running out—
That Deep Throat’s gargled, and will soon begin
To tell us where the money is; that Doubt
Has sunk her claws into his orange skin
And scrapes away his ego’s mildewed grout
That keeps the rot concealed—we let him find
Another way to stupefy the mind.

XI

I watched last month as that milquetoast Jeff Flake
Denounced the president. The Arizonan
Hardly caused any senators to shake
In their expensive, tasseled shoes; no Conan
Was he, cutting a swathe; more a cupcake
Than poisoned pill deliverer. To phone in
A quasi-resignation counts as mettle
Only when you have really grasped the nettle.

XII

Since then a pallid cavalcade of geezers
Have said they’ve had enough. Their worried spouses
Have sternly called back home these would-be Caesars
To sit on boards and eat lunch at clubhouses,
Rather than be the febrile buttock-squeezers
Who guide their fingers up their interns’ blouses,
And, leaning closer, give themselves permission
To press on them the size of their ambition.

XIII

In Hollywood, each day a smart white guy—
A self-defined tastemaker and cool dude,
Who knows when to zip or upzip his fly,
Is learning that he also can be screwed
Without a chance to ask the question Why?
His l’etat-c’est-moi, preening attitude,
Has been seen through: he’s not a streaking comet,
Just someone who makes all who meet him vomit.

XIV

I wish I understood the mad belief
That it would be sage (even as a prank)
Or just good-natured fun (or a relief)
To take your plonker out and blithely wank
In front of other folks. Is such a brief
And sordid, desultory thrill—to spank
The monkey and hasten your ruination—
Worth fifteen seconds of ejaculation?

XV

Like most men I possess an average willy,
It does what it’s required to do (per norm).
But waving it about in public’s silly—
Do these men really envisage a swarm
Of people competing to pop their chili
Into their mouths and gobble up the warm
And fragrant juices? It could be my stupidity,
But this ain’t courtship, it’s insane cupidity.

XVI

Who thinks a fourteen-year-old is fair game
No matter whether they’re a girl or boy?
When I was that age, I could barely frame
What gay or straight meant, what desire or joy
My body might respond to, or what name
It could be given. Therefore to destroy
A fragile sense of self, use as a tool,
And exercise one’s power, seems too cruel.

XVII

These men appear to assume that every room
Awaits with bated breath their entry to it;
That without them the flowers will not bloom;
No plan is worthy for they have seen through it;
That everything’s around them to consume,
And nothing valuable unless they do it.
No one can sate the vastness of their greed
Or fathom the presumptions of their need. 

XVIII

I’ve also felt the urgency of lust,
How it can shut out logic and self-checks.
But I’m not one who wonders when his bust
Will sit within the Pantheon; or expects
Women to faint with glee (or be concussed)
At just the thought of engaging in sex
With me; or feels a woman’s secret garden
Moistens at the mere notion I’ve a hard-on.

XIX

Of course, it’s all an exercise in power
A chance to show who’s tops, who’s grabbed the rings
(And breasts and crotches): the man of the hour.
The monstrous genius who’s walked with kings,
His insights fall like petals in a bower
Upon his grateful acolytes: what things
He promises! What wit, what style, what grace!
Who cares he told you to sit on his face?

XX

Now, I received the sort of education
That made it clear to me that when I spoke
A reverent hush would fall upon the nation
And what I said would (usually at a stroke)
Calm crises and souls. The ensuing ovation
(Long and inherently deserved) would stoke
The embers of the coldest hearts. And as for me:
I’d smile and nod with polished modesty.

XXI

So in the panicked, half-assed, bland confessions
It’s easy for me to see calculation:
Of how the consequences of transgressions
Might be considered; how a declaration
Of sorrow and regret and promised sessions
Of treatment might forestall more allegations;
With the result, after an apt duration,
Tearful, remorseful rehabilitation. 

XXII

Of course, the bully-in-chief, Big Kahuna,
The loudest pussy-grabber of them all
Sits in the Oval Office (O Fortuna!):
Letting his vulgar, clammy fingers crawl
Into the Constitution’s each lacuna.
Probing for weakness, grubby hands now maul
Each tuck and fold of Liberty’s green shroud
To prove how generously he’s endowed.

XXIII

And yet it matters not—not yet at least—
To those who voted for him. They’ve now moved
Beyond his promises and plans; have ceased
To hope their lives will ever be improved
By anyone. Instead, each day they feast
Upon his diatribes; the primal, grooved,
Well-trodden lines of grievance and indictment:
One half is entertainment, half excitement.

XXIV

Because of that, I wonder if he’ll bore them;
They’ll tire of the claptrap, turn the channel
To other pastimes that they see before them.
In desperation, will he duck and flannel,
Cajole or flatter, whine, moan, or ignore them,
Calling them out as losers as they impanel
A jury to impeach him for his crimes:
The very best and very worst of times?

XXV

Bob Mueller has moved in on Manafort,
The sleazy, self-enriching, wheeler-dealer.
We sense they’ve got a strong case, of the sort
That turns a wiseacre into a squealer,
Especially if he’s induced to short
More serious charges by sending a feeler
Or two out that might fulfill Mueller’s wishes
By pointing him to much, much larger fishes.

XXVI

They got a guilty plea from Papadopoulos
Some weeks ago. It’s likely that he’s worn
A wire for rendezvous in the metropolis,
In hotel suites and back rooms, and has sworn
To spill. Not since Pericles on the Acropolis
Poured forth upon Cimon his righteous scorn,
Have citizens felt their dispositions hearten:
Perhaps Mueller will ostracize the Spartan!

XXVII

Talking of which, he’s found a new occasion
To talk up Russia, Putin, and defame
Americans in government. The evasion
About his business dealings, and his blame
For fake news on the media make persuasion
Much easier that there’s a hidden shame
Within the Russian story. And I feel
We’ve not heard the last of Christopher Steele.

XXVIII

The Steele dossier is the spy’s report
That colored de Sade’s views in Canto 4;
Of girls, stained sheets, and dodgy deals, the sort
Of stories that were derided as folklore,
Just oppo propaganda. Manafort
And other witnesses may underscore
How much of Steele’s drip-drip revelation
Checks out, and where next goes the investigation.

XXIX

Steele may lay bare another stupid fecker
Who let John Thomas piss away his brain;
Who had to prove he had the longest pecker,
And thus poured his career down the drain.
Along the way, he’ll do his best to wreck a
Home, child, administration, and campaign,
Because he had to show that, though a prick,
He was, and will remain, the biggest dick.

XXX

The danger is that he’ll collapse the state
Before they get him to resign: call out
His base to march on DC; throw his weight
Behind Steve Bannon’s talk of coups, and flout
All laws and customs; publically berate
Those who “destroyed” him; and cast doubt
On our institutions. In this way,
Vladimir Vladimirovich will hold sway.

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The Trumpiad: Book 1—Canto 10

October 2017

I

I first arrived in 1987,
Flying with wonder into JFK.
It was December, and the vault of heaven,
As I recall it, was not English grey
But liquid blue. I felt my spirit leaven
As from the Carey Bus I stepped that day
To feel the echoed beat of dancing feet
Near Grand Central on Forty-Second Street.

II

I knew right then I’d come back here to live,
My union with the City felt organic.
The pace, the noise, the hustle didn’t give
Me pause at all. Instead, they had a manic
And syncopated kick; a combative
Yet welcoming impatience; a galvanic,
Persistent pulse that swung and thrummed: ambition
Was all that was required for admission. 

III

Arriving in the US was, for me,
A break from past restraints of class and clan,
A chance to get a job and to breathe free
Without assumptions of what sort of man
A person of my background had to be.
No one cared where I went to school, my plan
Needed no pulling of the old-boy strings,
Political alignments, or such things.

IV

Of course, I’m someone with enormous luck:
My gender, race, accent, and education.
I’m tall, I’m able-bodied, and don’t suck
At sports; a common sexual orientation
Is mine, and though I can still be a schmuck,
I try to honor each friend and relation,
As well as strangers that I meet, with fairness,
Kindness, and decency, or plain awareness.

V

I, therefore, know my views are rarified:
That NYC is not the USA;
I try to be as honest and clear-eyed
About how much Great Britain falls away
From its view of itself; how people died
Directly for my comfort. The UK
Has still not reckoned with its shameful past,
And that is wrong. That silence must not last.

VI

So, I’m aware I’m not much of a guide
To my new-found-land. And I cannot know
What life must feel like when you are denied
Full liberty because of race, although
Your people built the nation. I decide
To what I pledge allegiance, and can go
Wherever I wish. My views, newly minted,
Perforce must be both blinkered and rose-tinted.

VII

When I arrived, in 1991,
The days were dark: the murder rate was high,
The city’s mood was grim. And yet the sun
Still rose and people worked, and, by and by,
With more cops on the street, and CompStat run,
The death toll fell, although the reasons why
Remain uncertain. We may never know
Why homicides have plummeted so low.

VIII

Perhaps an increase in incarcerations;
Consolidation of the trade in crack;
Removal of lead paint from installations
So kids could stay in school and keep on track;
Sickened by death, young men left altercations
With no cold body on the hot tarmac:
All these contributed—to which, add one:
The state tried to control who got a gun.

IX

The longer that I live here, it grows clearer
To me how hurt this country is, how cracked.
Elections pass, laws change, but we’re no nearer
To addressing the sad truth that the compact
On race–class, North–South (which a thin veneer, a
Mask of politeness hides), an artifact
Of our virgin birth, is now a curse,
Which, since we cannot deal with it, grows worse.

X

Yet when I think of this place I call home
I feel more pity, bafflement, than rage.
I revel in not having far to roam
To greet the world, and thereby to engage
With awe at how this city’s polychrome
Environment works as a kind of stage
Where we all play a part. Diversity
Can never be a shortcoming to me.

XI

This month, I’ve binge-watched all the episodes
Of Ken Burns’ series on the Vietnam War.
You see how each choice, fault, and lie erodes
The confidence, faith, and esprit de corps
Of all sucked in—how every action bodes
Ill, and a horror is confirmed. It tore
Apart whole nations, people, families,
And left us broken, weeping on our knees. 

XII

The wall that Maya Lin designed let pain
And grief emerge as you descended in.
We need to plumb that sorrow, and not feign
Either contempt or smugness. No threat-grin
Should censor those who weep for all the slain
However they were killed. We must begin
To face the horrors of the past, not let
Us fool ourselves it’s better to forget.

XIII

It seems to me that one way we’re unwell,
Is how and why we’ve fetishized the gun:
A symbol of resistance, pride, a gel
That holds a tribe together; how a son
Shows Dad he is a man. No tolling bell
Can break the itchy trigger that someone
Who buys a weapon, swearing not to abuse it,
Will at some point feel—that he is forced to use it.

XIV

Yet, when a shooter murders fifty-nine
Attendees at a concert in Las Vegas,
I wonder if perhaps the fault is mine,
As a non-native, thinking that guns plague us;
Not getting that guns are a piquant sign
Of rural life, freedom, the way a magus
Might brandish his wand and make disappear
The causes of all disrespect and fear.

XV

I understand the Founders’ deep alarm
About an over-reaching central state.
The fragile army needed men to arm
Themselves to combat threats, both small and great,
From foreign foes. I do not get the charm
Of shooting animals for fun, but rate
Such pastimes not as bad as factory farming:
That’s nothing but a crucible for harming.

XVI

I guess a gun can make you feel more safe
When you live in the sticks. An indoor range
I’ve shot in, and I think that it would chafe
A sane gun owner (or he’d find it strange)
That anyone would think it cool to strafe
Whoever comes in view. But this exchange
Is not permissible. The NRA
Rules congress, and it will not go away.

XVII

Australia once felt a similar pain
And banned some guns and deaths declined a lot.
When sixteen kids were mown down in Dunblane
Restrictions were imposed. Of course, it’s not
As if you cannot kill; and an insane
Person will find a way. It’s just it got
A little harder to commit the crime:
More lives were spared because it bought some time.

XVIII

But not here, not in these United States.
How can this be the price of liberty?
The opioid addiction rightly rates
As a crisis of public health; how free
Can we be when so many die? What straits
Will make us see what other nations see?
We’re killing one another in the streets
Whether we are (or not) wearing white sheets.

XIX

Not even 45 is, thus, to blame
For these old wounds, he merely rubs more salt in.
We like to think he is the worst, but shame
Is yours and mine, whoever we find fault in.
We all are guilty of playing the game
Of thinking that we’re more evolved. A halt in
Believing we’re untainted is what’s needed,
If we’re to heal the body that we’ve bleeded.

XX

So, murder, guilt, or controversy reigns
While seismic happenings are underway.
It’s possible the ulcers and migraines
That he inflicts upon us every day
Disguise a worse disease: that our veins
Are being emptied while we hope and pray
For health. But all he does suggests this man
Has no clue: that he doesn’t have a plan.

XXI

And yet it’s also true that great events
Are cooking slowly, and we are distracted.
Even if we swapped him for VP Pence
Occurrences would still leave us impacted.
The elite have failed us terribly, and hence,
When dreadful laws are forcibly enacted
To make survival possible, we’ll know
We blew the chances not so long ago.

XXII

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
This ain’t. Each tempest and disastrous flood
Makes plain that nature’s might can deliquesce
Each well-laid plan and road; the viscous mud
Tugs at the hopes and knees, and in the mess
Brings progress down to earth with a great thud.
These storms, while often vivid and climactic,
Serve as a kind of mental prophylactic.

XXIII

For they are not the main things we should fear.
Beneath the placid, ordinary day
Just slightly warmer than the previous year;
Or springs the wettest yet; or early May
Experiencing record temps; severe
Drought, fire, or monsoon—the primrose way
To hell is being paved in each meridian,
Until the terrible event’s quotidian.

XXIV

Will folklorists describe how massive storms
That devastated regions year on year—
Each one a hurricane that broke the norms
Of only months before—provoked the fear
Of social breakdown, lawlessness, and swarms
Of homeless migrants crossing each frontier,
Leading to martial law, rule by decree,
And tyranny from sea to shining sea?

XXV

We are already well beyond the dawn
Of loss and disappearance. Gradually,
We notice birds, mammals, and fish are gone
While we run through our tired repartee
Of just how we are the sine qua non,
The life worthy of life, the apogee
Of the Almighty’s vision. Each statistic
Suggests a self-importance that’s hubristic.

XXVI

Will poets tell the unbelieving youth
That once there roamed across a fertile earth
Tigers and rhinos, and (“It is the truth!”)
White bears and elephants; that once their worth
Was measured by a skin or horn or tooth,
And so we killed them all? And when the dearth
Of fish was something we could not ignore,
We carried on until there were no more.

XXVII

The places of the world will vanish, too—
Submerged or just abandoned. Holy sites:
Where life and death took our forebears through
The generations; where the annual rites
That marked time’s passage, formed the social glue,
And brought us joy, were held. No fancy flights
Of virtual reality will sate
The mourning when we find it is too late.

XXVIII

At this pace, though, we’ll not live long enough
To rue what we have and we haven’t done.
The U.S.–North Korean bullies talking tough
Threaten to make things warmer than the sun
By blowing us to smithereens—the stuff
Of nightmares realized. A megaton
Of death that blows ten million to bits
Because these damaged men are having fits.

XXIX

As ever, making worse, the already bad,
The C-in-C mocks Tillerson at State.
Each time I’ve named a person who has had
A role in this farce, they find that the date
Of their appointment has elapsed. This lad
Is likely to go next—a bit too late
To save his reputation. Stick a fork, (a
Tine or two at the least) into Bob Corker.

XXX

Before we know it, we’ll be off, once more,
To war, and—lo!—we’ll see the nation rally.
A trope as old as time, we’ll count the score
In bodies, and decide what sort of tally
We can call victory. Once more, the poor
Will suffer most from every bombing sally
That we rain down. And, once more: an erasure
Of unknown, nameless thousands in East Asia.

XXXI

Will we step back and pause, weigh up the odds,
Think of a longer future than next tweet?
Or will we shrug and place all hope on God’s
Great plan for us? Will we find the drumbeat
Too martial to resist? Will our squads
Square off against each other in the street?
Before year’s end will we love Uncle Sam?
Or find ourselves reliving a “Vietnam”?

Posted in The Trumpiad, Works: Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Trumpiad: Book 1—Canto 9

September 2017

I

Satire depends for its effectiveness
Upon the supposition a way through
Absurdity, aggressiveness, and mess
Can be discerned; that what is good and true
Is clear and held by all those who profess
To be the thoughtful, decent person who
Knows right from wrong, feels empathy and shame,
And seeing evil, calls it by its name.

II

Since his election, I’ve been mostly sickened
And stunned in equal measure. I have tried
To understand those whose bruised hearts were quickened
By his excess, who felt that they’d been lied
Enough to, who enjoyed that he’d no slick and
Genteel stump speech; and worried that the tide
Was running out—so they gave him their vote:
He’d tip the ship, sure; but he’d float their boat.

III

I’m not unsympathetic to the claim
That the elites get more than their fair share;
That for the working stiff, the social game
Is rigged against him; those who say they “care”
Don’t understand the pressures; that the blame
Goes to both parties; and that one’s despair
At straight-talker, glib hack, or bland patrician
Makes one vote for an anti-politician.

IV

Through all the flimflam, rudeness, and deceit
He’s sullied us with; through each simpering flob
And pestilential snot-stream that each tweet
Smears over us; through all the pain this slob
Inflicts on us each day, I’ve tried to meet
His voters halfway. But no more, this yob
Has not my pledge, and nor should he from you:
If you cared for this land, you’d say so, too.

V

Step up! “The Mooch” was fired from the cannon,
His brief role in the circus done and dusted.
Priebus was shown the exit, and Steve Bannon
(The conjuror of smoke and mirrors) busted.
The ringmaster, of course, remains: the man on
Whom all the nonsense hangs. These bozos trusted
That they would have his ear, be in the know.
What fools! For treachery is his m.o.

VI

Sebastian Gorka, the soiled-goods hawker,
Has gone. He blames the enemies inside
The White House: saboteurs (says this big talker),
And would-be Democrats, who have denied
The big “creep” (aka Hillary’s stalker)
His nationalist agenda. You decide
Just whether the head barker needs a hand
In ruining his “plans” for this great land.

VII

He neither wants to learn or work or read.
He’s idle, ignorant, and apathetic;
Attacks the very people that he’ll need
To get things done. Yet, like a forced emetic,
Or a medieval quack who wants to bleed
The sick body to cure it, or ascetic
Who hopes gnosis emerges from starvation,
The enema of the people scours the nation.

VIII

And there is something cleansing, I confess it,
In what he’s forcing us to expurgate.
A boil or cyst—no matter how we dress it—
Must at some point be drained. And just to wait
And hope it goes away (rather than press it)
Will only let it ooze and suppurate.
His sickening and poisonous derision
Has made on legion lesions an incision.

IX

Just what is it emerging from the stew?
What mucilaginous and rancid chunk
Of undigested hate plops into view?
What seborrheic pustule has this punk
Squeezed with his tiny fingers? What moist poo
Dribbles from his fat cheeks? What slimy gunk
Stinks up the public sphere, backs up the pipes?
And leaves us a despoiled stars and stripes?

X

What sooty spittle’s foaming on the tongue?
What melanomas bloom upon the skin?
What oily film that coated either lung
Has been hacked forth to tar each double chin?
What pungent rash has now (unbidden) sprung,
And made us sweat and pullulate within?
(Is part of this disgraceful condemnation
The shameful verse that forms this compilation?) 

XI

What rotten wind’s been loosened from the bowels?
What halitotic eructation freed?
What mucky bin of sanitary towels
Or skidmarked underwear stained with old seed
Has been left out, unwashed, and now befouls
The air? What scabby, loathsome demon breed
Stumble like moldy zombies through our streets?
Clad in their polo shirts and slacks not sheets?

XII

Fascists, that’s who. Them and the KKK,
The neo-Nazis, and the “alt-right” crowd.
These men (and women) act as if it’s they
Who are the honorable ones—the avowed
Custodians of what’s good—whose rebel gray
Should rise again and don the whitewashed shroud.
All it required was authority figures
To wrest the country from the Jews and niggers.

XIII

And now they’ve found their leaders. One, Jeff Sessions,
Is poised to once more lock up black men (“thugs”)
To make the world safe for those whose transgressions
Are white collar in every sense. On drugs
(Also again) he’ll wage war, with concessions
I’m sure for most whites (poor or rich). The jug’s
For criminals, as long as they aren’t armed
With licensed guns. They’ll walk the streets unharmed.

XIV

We’ve known a long time of the other guy,
He’s shown his racial animus for years.
His father loved the Klan, and it’s clear why
He asked about Obama’s birthplace: fears
About a black man wielding power lie
Behind the sell-out Giuliani’s jeers
That Obama loved not America.
And now we have the black-clad Antifa.

XV

This is the game the right wing likes to play.
To set up some equivalence, sow doubt.
“We may have lynched,” they cry, “but every day
The blacks kill one another! And you shout
Insults as we practice free speech; you say
It’s hate, and so do we of you. My lout
Is matched by yours—and each one’s views are awful.
But if there is no violence, it’s lawful.”

XVI

These views can (if you squint hard) be appealing,
Play to moderates’ dreams of liberty:
That in the public marketplace, freewheeling
Ideas on how much of history
To hold and what to let go, what is healing
And what is harmful, are calmed in degree
By letting the extremes of left and right
Have at each other in an endless fight.

XVII

Or if not that, then people of good sense
Will come together in the solid center.
That the two parties will expunge the offense
Caused by their flanks and raise up a big tent, a
Response to those who’d argue that defense
Against anarcho-fascists is (absent a
True reckoning of our past) necessary
In rendering the future not so scary.

XVIII

But what if the habitual restraint
Shown by the president just isn’t there?
What if one party’s craven, its complaint
Too muted, or complacent, doctrinaire?
What if it’s calculated that the quaint
Notions of normalcy—even to care
About society—aren’t worth the sweat?
Do they think they can temporize the threat?

XIX

Is each Republican scared of attacks
Not just from him but Breitbart? Will they bow
And supine lie upon their spineless backs
To take his bullying? Will they kowtow
Because the die-hard right will send out flacks
To threaten or condemn should they not vow
Allegiance to the feckless autocrat?
And if they do so, will that then be that?

XX

They say, of course, that it won’t get so far.
Someone will say, “Have you no decency?”
And like McCarthy his ascendant star
Will fall, and he’ll resign or cease to be
Of consequence? But it’s beyond bizarre
That nothing that he does will shake the tree
Of true believers or the fearful shills
Who will stay with him (even if he kills).

XXI

Despite his spite, his turpitude and gall,
He yet retains the love of some one-third
Of voters: those who want to build the Wall;
Who itch for phantom former greatness; heard
In the attacks upon the elites a call
For dreams that were theirs but had been deferred
By immigrants and spongers, and their sort,
Whom their man would imprison or deport.

XXII

Since Charlottesville, and Heather Heyer’s death
(Mown down by an alt-right supremacist),
We’ve barely had a chance to draw a breath
Without his obloquy, flick-of-the-wrist
Contempt for truth, or tossed-off shibboleth
To show he “cares.” He acts royally pissed
When his equivocations and neurosis
Reveal more evidence of his psychosis.

XXIII

My anger’s not about the monuments
To Jim Crow, Southern history, states rights.
It’s how it’s “us” or “them,” blatant defense
That those who march with Nazis are the knights
Who should (and must) defend “us.” It’s pretense
That “heritage” is colorblind, that whites
And blacks will obviously vote with their races:
Why unify us when have our places?

XXIV

Listen, supporters! He’s clearly unfit.
He won’t do what you want, because he can’t
Do what is needed to get any shit
Done. He’s undisciplined; can only rant
When smooth persuasion beckons; throws a fit
When nous would open doors, and offers scant
Examples of the skill that, brick by brick,
Builds coalitions that make DC tick.

XXV

But these deficiencies pale next to others:
His default is to stimulate dissension.
It’s obvious that if he had his druthers
He’d end all opposition and convention.
He yearns for battle—brothers against brothers—
As long as he receives all the attention.
If it is vulgar, conflict-rich, and scrappy,
And TV ratings break the roof, he’s happy.

XXVI

But even this description makes it seem
As though there’s art behind his brash persona.
A cunning plan to drain the swamp? The dream
Of a revived America? Each donor
To his campaign to get their favored scheme
Fast-tracked to nowhere? Nonsense. A rank stoner,
Blissed out and clueless, would detect this rat
As someone who’s no cattle and all hat.

XXVII

Talking of which, the monumental flood
That Harvey has poured into Houston, Tex.,
Gives him still yet another chance to blood
Himself as useful and unselfish, flex
His presidential muscle. To the mud
He then could bid farewell, as he projects
The image of a leader, reconciler,
And not a canting, serial defiler. 

XXVIII

He could proclaim an era of resilience
In facing climate change; free up resources,
Imagination, and people of brilliance
To shape the next five decades, so the forces
Of nature might be softened, a consilience
Of Texas grit and focus that divorces
Us finally from fossil fuels and coal
And stops us digging holes and makes us whole. 

XXIX

Yeah, right! If you think he’ll do such a thing
Then I’ve a bridge in Brooklyn that’s for sale.
The presidency will amplify and bring
The true man to the fore (it’s still just male).
And so it’s proved. Houston will no more sting
His conscience than a dog will catch its tail.
He’ll get his photo-op and let the state
Clean up the mess, and claim that he’s done great. 

XXX

Houston’s a diverse place, it represents
America in microcosm. Here’s
The first great litmus test: This president’s
High Noon, the whole ball game: it’s endless tears
Or acclamation. Handling such events
Is how a nation calibrates its fears
And aspirations for their families:
Will he lift up or bring us to our knees?

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The Trumpiad: Book 1—Canto 8

August 2017

I

“This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle”—
Thus, Ulysses (from Tennyson). No wuss
Was this princeling, but full of care and wile;
A stern-browed Ithacan (not treasonous),
Who recognized that stringency and guile
(Not dodgy courtiers from hostile nations)
Work best in furthering one’s aspirations.

II

Together U & T hosed down the place
Of loutish, lazy, good-for-nothing sons.
The ineffectual suitors, lacking grace,
Had hung out there for years, consuming tons
Of food and wine and time. These wastes of space
Were quickly flushed away to everyone’s
Relief. Sometimes you’ll find the worthless scion
Is tempered best when tickled with hot iron.

III

Indulgence is the father to this man,
His family, he pouts, is “quality.”
What each day is revealing is his clan
Has no more dignity or decency
Than père. The only difference I can
Discern is that they don’t appear to be
As desperate as father for attention,
Perhaps because he pays them a subvention.

IV

When I hear of a family of grifters,
I think of card-sharks or someone’s ex-spouse;
Of welfare slackers, inbred white-trash drifters,
Or Mr. Skimpole sponging in Bleak House.
Of course, all families contain shoplifters,
Dropouts, perverts, and mandatory souse,
That said, it’s rare to find a group this cozy
Or dozy emulating Mafiosi.

V

At least the bloody Medicis had taste;
The English monarchs patronized the Poet.
The Julio-Claudians weren’t all debased,
And while John Adams’ progeny did blow it,
And Billy, Neil, Roger, et al. disgraced
Their brothers, they at least had sense to show it
Mattered that bad behavior’s repercussions
Should not mean selling us out to the Russians.

VI

Lo, what is this we find? The first-born, Don,
Thought it would be a wizard plan to meet
With Putin flacks to set his paws upon
Some dish on Hillary. And to complete
The party? Jared Kushner, Putin’s spawn
Paul Manafort, and a lengthening sheet
Of scuzzballs. Now we see claims of collusion
Aren’t just a liberal nighttime effusion.

VII

This Don is the same dude who loves to shoot
Whatever threatened or endangered beast
Wanders into his sights. The big galoot
Runs his pa’s business, which means at the least
Should he and Eric prove less than astute
(A fair bet at the moment), then the greased
Duo will be themselves under the gun—
Something, for once, they won’t find so much fun!

VIII

For evidently Mueller’s closing in
On where the filthy lucre in this affair
Is found. Even ten rinse cycles of spin
Won’t launder all the cash the Russian bear
Has dumped into his real estate. No “win”
Or even drummed-up international “scare”
Will cover up the fact from the word “Go”
He’s been bought and propped up by Russian dough.

IX

That’s why he has withheld his tax releases,
That’s why he fluffs up his bromance with Vlad;
That’s why he’ll let the US fall to pieces
Rather than stiff these clients. His comrade
And cronies have unloaded piles of feces
Upon their greatest fan. Our Stalingrad
Will happen when, at the appropriate minute,
Vlad flips the switch and we are buried in it.

X

To stop this shit storm, what did Don propose
To stink-proof some of the executive suite?
Did Junior even feign to hold his nose
As he ceded Ukraine, said they’d defeat
The sanctions, or adopt the quid pro quos
That Russia wanted? And what coded tweet
Or speech did Pops give to let his Vlad know
That it was clear who really ran the show?

XI

What’s so unusual in this concern
Is that it isn’t sleuths or great reporting
That’s lending us these insights. What we learn
Does not emerge from haggard journos sorting
Through trashcans, or a much-abused intern.
No DC madam or sting with coke-snorting
Is causing forty-five to come a cropper:
It’s coming from within the White House proper.

XII

Are junior staffers huddling in nooks
Lowering their tones as the boss walks by?
Are they scribbling down notes so that their books
Will capture the dysfunction? Do they lie
To please him or avoid the dirty looks
Of other liars? When the FBI
Hauls them to court will they stick to their brief,
Or tell you they were mimicking the chief? 

XIII

Of this we can be sure: this nest of vipers
Has poisoned government for a decade.
You huddle by your desk for fear that snipers
Will pick you off, that any random aide
Will throw you to the wolves: being one-stripers
Is thankless when you’re regularly betrayed.
Who’d work in that place even for a week,
When all you hold dear is undone by pique?

XIV

You think about it: what tiny action
For good could be achieved when day by day
You’re undermined? Each project has no traction
Because you can’t plan out a play-by-play
Without him wrecking it. Meanwhile, each faction
Pits you against your colleagues—what they say
About you ends up in the press. Each morning
Should be prefaced with a government warning.

XV

Sean Spicer (RIP) detests “The Mooch,”
Who really wants to be the Chief of Staff.
Reince Priebus thinks the old man’s latest pooch
Is a mere showboat and good for a laugh.
Jared-Ivanka love his coif and smooch—
And pater’s happy. Plus, on their behalf,
If they can piss off Bannon, then it’s more
Likely that Daddy will show him the door.

XVI

There’s old Jeff Sessions with the dunce’s hat,
Because he did not do what he desired.
And Sarah Sanders will hear that she’s fat:
His way of telling women that they’re fired.
The whole crew will soon end up a doormat
On which he wipes his feet when he grows tired
Of them obeying rules, laws, inner compasses,
Instead of diving into endless rumpuses.

XVII

You wouldn’t know this White House has got “weeks”
To focus on issues and policies.
The reason is outbursts and frequent leaks
Consume the media’s analyses
And renders them quite pointless. Such bespeaks
His weird impairment, a tic or disease
That lets you sabotage all you hold dear
As if success is that which you most fear.

XVIII

I never glimpse a genuine concession
To joy or pleasure, just obnoxious gloating.
I never get an inkling or impression
That he likes something for its sake—like floating
On air or oceanic bliss. Aggression,
Derision, shtick, and bunkum before doting
Admirers seem to be all that he needs:
Sucking the lifeblood out of which he feeds.

XIX

All that remains is but a hollow shell,
A fractured carapace for president.
He doesn’t make you trust all will be well
If we believed in him. Instead, ferment
And hatred, twenty-seven kinds of hell
Ensue from each obnoxious tweet he’s sent.
He’s not struggling against another foe.
It’s simple: He’s the fons et origo.

XX

Consider that last month he spoke before
Thousands of boy scouts at their jamboree.
He could have eulogized esprit de corps,
Steadfastness, discipline, fidelity;
Hailed sacrifice and usefulness—the lore
That boy scouts live by. No, his repartee
Was like an adult roast without restraint,
Full not of motivation but complaint. 

XXI

Still harping on crowds at the Inauguration,
Lamenting how the health-care bill is stalled,
Threatening folks in his administration,
Railing again at “fake news,” he recalled
How he won (state by state) throughout the nation.
Then he held all the teenagers enthralled
As he recounted how a billionaire
Bought a big boat to hold his “parties” there.

XXII

Perhaps he thought the lads would find the swingers
And moneybaggers figures to admire.
Or had in mind that such ribald humdingers
Would light under these lusty youths a fire
And turn them into debt-laden right-wingers:
Rich wise guys with a babe whom they can hire
To decorate the prow and mix the drinks,
Or guard the rugrats while they hit the links. 

XXIII

He thanked the children for their votes, and told them
They could sing “Merry Christmas,” once again.
He criticized Obama, and then sold them
His tax repatriation plan; made plain
He thought DC a “sewer,” and cajoled them
To promise they’d not let their mojo wane.
In sum, the only point of his address
Was to convince himself of his success.

XXIV

Maybe he thought teen boys would understand
The fear of flagging powers, need to win.
Or that he hoped the scouts would lend a hand
And help this pensioner through thick and thin.
Perhaps, like all he does, nothing was planned
And his neuroses bled through his bronzed skin
Onto the tens of thousands ranked below
Who knew that, at the least, they’d catch a show.

XXV

And, in the end, are we not entertained?
The drama, hissy fits, unchecked compulsion,
Potemkin signings, morning rants, harebrained
Ideas, and veneering and emulsion
From mandarins and pundits, have retrained
Our sense of wrong, relaxing our revulsion
By turning abnormality quotidian
And painting self-reflection deep obsidian.

XXVI

It feels like things are coming to a head.
(I am aware that the much-yearned-for end
Has been deferred and many tears been shed
At thoughts this presidency may extend
To a full term, and further.) So, I tread
With caution when my thesis I defend:
I cannot think this can go on much more
Without him simply blowing up the store. 

XXVII

He clearly wants Jeff Sessions to resign.
He urgently hopes Bob Mueller will cease.
You sense he’s itching to can Rosenstein
If only to acquire a moment’s peace.
“I s’pose,” he thinks, “it would be asinine
To do any of these, lest they release
A crisis that I simply won’t survive.”
These are some of the thoughts of forty-five. 

XXVIII

“Now hold on,” he replies, “if Sessions goes
I’ll employ Giuliani—he’s my chum.
Instead of weak-willed Price and his bozos
I could get Newt. He’d love to stick his thumb
In Ryan’s eyes, McConnell’s face. Just shows:
Go with the bruisers who can ruck and scrum.
They love me and they’ll never let me down,
Not like the GOP in this dumb town.” 

XXIX

Can you imagine? How would this enhance
The GOP among the younger set?
What image would it mold or cause advance
Except to make millennials regret
That they’d survived to see this day. Fat chance
That either nominee would pass. And yet,
He’d name Ted Cruz for AG, as a wheeze,
To have him beg for favors on his knees. 

XXX

Given this crisis, Democrats’ chief tenet
Should in the midterms in twenty-eighteen
Be to win back the House and/or the Senate
And not take anything as read. We’ve seen
What haughty smugness does for parties—when it
Demands a sharp and principled machine
To send as many people to the polls
And wrest back at least one of the controls. 

XXXI

Let’s not be coy about this. Self-protection
Is all he cares about. If he must drag
Congress along the floor as misdirection
Then he won’t hesitate. If a false flag
Is needed, he will raise it. No abjection
Is too much; each supporter’s body bag
Is waiting to be zipped if they assent
To this ask: “Will you serve the president?”

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The Trumpiad: Book 1—Canto 7

July 2017

I

He rises up before you every day
(Or so it seems): the blotchy, fleshy face;
The blank-eyed stare; the hair in disarray
Or greased back. From his purple nose, you trace
The booze or drugs, the broken veins that splay
Across the sallow skin. And to displace
The weak chin, the mark of men’s “liberty”:
The contoured, grey-flecked, middle-aged goatee.

II

Each mugshot shows a flattened vacancy,
Ambitions bleached, and half-held vows ignored,
A faint hint of respectability
Amid his self-inflicted wreckage. Bored
Eyes narrow in contempt or glint with glee
At what he takes as some kind of reward:
If it required this for recognition,
Then it was worth the price of ammunition.

III

No doubt a man who liked the quiet life,
Who loved his guns, his Harley, and a beer.
But recently, he’d found out that his wife
Was seeing Barry from accounts. The fear
Of cuckoldry had cut him like a knife.
That Friday, he’d loaded his hunting gear
And brought down both with his AR-15:
He prided himself that his shots were clean.

IV

He didn’t go to church much, but he knew
Some Bible stuff, and he had read online
About Islam. “I’ve got my eye on you,”
He told Virat in sales. “One move, you’re mine.”
Virat just smiled, but two weeks later grew
Concerned enough to leave his job. At nine,
Virat was killed—a bullet to the head:
“He looked suspicious to me . . . glad he’s dead.”

V

He had to save the innocents from death,
He heard their frantic cries for his protection.
He’d never stand down. To his final breath,
Even if it demanded insurrection,
He would obey the higher law that saith,
“Suffer the little children.” No reflection
Was needed when he hit the detonator:
If he had faults, their faults were all the greater.

VI

He had nothing against the blacks and Jews,
The ones from India were kinda smart.
The Mexicans were everywhere, their crews
Did all the work around there: A fresh start—
He understood that. But why did they choose
His women? Each to his own kind was part
Of God’s law. When he saw one with a white,
He knew that what he had to do was right.

VII

He didn’t understand when it all changed:
These crazy genders, diets, and gay marriage.
Who said the order should be rearranged,
What was wrong with the horse before the carriage?
His children didn’t call him, his estranged
Wife took his money—all liked to disparage
What he believed in. He’d show who was boss:
One more dead bureaucrat was no one’s loss.

VIII

Of course, they’d come—the Black Hawks, Kevlar suits,
The G-men, smoke-bombs, hand grenades, the lot.
But he was armed and ready. Thugs in boots
Could kick his door down, but they’d all be shot.
He’d die his own man—from his corpse, the shoots
Of a pure land would sprout, purged of the rot
Of mongrelism. Martyrdom would bring
Forward that hoped-for day: Let freedom ring.

IX

Since when was it all right to interject
When he was talking? When was it OK
To claim his privilege had to be “checked”?
For decades he’d worked hard, could he not say
Whatever he damn liked? Or not expect
Some deference? Chips would fall where they may,
But he would be allowed to speak right through,
Even if it required a death or two.

X

You once knew what it was to be a man.
You held a job; you put your kids through school;
You married someone organized who’d plan
Your life, but didn’t change you. Then, the rule
Of law meant something and what you began
You finished. But these days you were a fool
If you did not take whatever you pleased.
The only “triggers” that mattered were squeezed.

XI

You women have to live with guys like these:
The ones who claim that might always makes right;
The ones who tie the nooses to the trees;
The hairy gutbucket and troglodyte
Who guns his oily hotrod; every sleaze
Who speaks of hard work, yet this parasite
Sucks at the creamy teats of state for free—
A champion of “real” liberty.

XII

The entitled, condescending “voice of reason”
Who shuts you up (because he knows what’s best);
Who purrs, “For everything there is a season,”
And yet year-round is feathering his nest;
Who loves to lecture you, though you’ve degrees in
The subject, and when you start to protest,
Is flabbergasted there was a suggestion
That what he said might be open to question.

XIII

The idiot who catcalls in the street,
Assuming that no lady can resist him,
As both of them offer the other “meat.”
And even though each woman has dismissed him,
He’s confident (she’s obviously in heat),
Her ire is regret that she’s not kissed him.
Or if not that, he’s whiled away an hour
By showing females who has real power.

XIV

You’d thought that toxic masculinity—
Unwarranted assurance, childish brashness,
Assertion without proof, misogyny,
Petulant threats of retribution, rashness,
Bone-idleness, ass-backwards sophistry,
Refusal to back down, and talking trash—yes,
You hoped that after all we had endured
Our adolescent country had matured. 

XV

What naïfs you were to presume white guys
Would take their place among the rest; how callow
To think they (we) would hand over the prize
Awarded to them every day; how shallow
To hope they’d step down, and not exercise
All their amendment rights. Having left fallow
(In their minds) the last eight years, they intended
Emasculated rule to be suspended.

XVI

How apt it is, therefore, that there appears
A white man without conscience, heavenly
Mercy, or prudence, to dispel the fears
That tremble inside masculinity:
A man who won’t back down, openly leers
At all he wants to fondle, cannot see
Beyond his own self-interest, who cares
Not one jot for any other’s affairs.

XVII

A man who’s never struggled, never fought
For something he believes in. No grand mission
Has shaped his life, except what can be bought
Or sold: without an atom of contrition,
Regret, or ruth; without a single thought
Beyond the purview of an acquisition
To fortify the grandiosity
Of his labyrinthine monstrosity. 

XVIII

When all the winding pathways of the maze
Come to an end, do you think you will find
A wounded, half-formed creature, who spends days
And nights howling for help? When you unwind
The skein of kindness, will his furious gaze
Soften. Thus, tempered, would he be inclined
To leave his darkness for the light of day,
And, raging, not turn inward or away?

XIX

I doubt it. The ungracious crenellations
(Amassed in eight jejune decades) grow stronger.
The buttressed grievances and crude foundations
Of ego are impermeable. The longer
The flippant palisades and battle stations
Stand to protect the male conceit, the wronger
We’ll be in thinking that he’ll be impeached:
This Bluebeard’s castle’s walls will not be breached. 

XX

No decency escapes these parapets—
Just clouds of poisoned gas released each morning
To sour the body politic; thick jets
Of nauseating tweets, rude and suborning.
You try to slough it off, read the regrets
From legislators impotently warning
“Stop!”—vainly pleading no good will come from it:
Yet wait a day . . . another stream of vomit.

XXI

For in the end, it’s not about the voters.
Nor all the issues he’s feigned interest in.
It’s not about the state of General Motors,
Or global trade, or (maybe) even skin.
It’s not about whom he will pick for SCOTUS,
Or finding out just who really did win.
It boils down to simple temperament:
This man is not fit to be president. 

XXII

The only reason why he is still there
Is he’s a man. Given what he has done,
If any woman decided to share
Her thoughts about a man’s parts—oh what fun
The XY chromosomes would have! The air
Would go blue as they turned on her as one
And drummed her out of office for her sin:
It’s certain that no woman’ll ever win. 

XXIII

He swims, unconscious, in the welcome waters
Of masculinity. The thirteen bros
Who drafted healthcare to affect all daughters,
Wives, mothers, sisters, and hurried to close
The clinics that would keep them healthy taught us
That “women’s issues” simply do not pose
A problem to reflect on. Men believe
It’s their job to determine who’ll conceive. 

XXIV

What do they know of caring for the sick?
Or looking after a disabled child
While working two jobs? Or when the dumb brick
That used to be your husband went and filed
For bankruptcy to void his dues, his prick
Lodged in another county seat, bills piled
High, you cannot afford to live . . . or sink. . . .
Do these men ever take the time to think 

XXV

Of who cleans out their offices, or makes
Their kids’ beds, or rubs Brasso on their plates?
Of who comes in to brew their chai, or bakes
Their croissants, or opens their enclave’s gates?
Can they imagine what courage it takes
To leave it all behind and trust the fates
To seek freedom somewhere that’s strange and new
Trusting what the U.S. proclaims is true? 

XXVI

Or is it our shared task to ensure
That these men know how much we are impressed
By how crucial they are, how much allure
They have, and how we (the weak and distressed)
Are grateful they protect us? Then, demure
Consumers, do we do our level best
To ignore their self-absorption and flip-flopping
By spending days and nights in online shopping? 

XXVII

Whatever is the case, this frantic need
Is more than a whole country can supply:
Think of his cabinet, who went and peed
Their pants in joy exclaiming how and why
They loved working for him, and all agreed
He was the greatest, while he cast his eye
Around the table like an emperor:
As if this was what government was for. 

XXVIII

It’s like the worst of white men’s self-belief
Is synthesized in one dude, and distilled:
Vanity, shamelessness, an endless beef
With critics; coarseness; triteness; and a willed
Careless cupidity. A leitmotif
That runs throughout, and lets the tension build,
Is that beyond the craziness, the drama:
How much he’s plagued by hatred for Obama. 

XXIX

But why pretend this bozo needs a cause
To prosecute his dreadful, loathsome schemes?
All efforts by his staff to hit the pause,
Stop, and restart will fail. The plaintive dreams
Of those who voted for him—all his flaws
Will snuff them out, and rend them at the seams
Because he doesn’t care and never will:
You’ve been had and you will pick up the bill. 

XXX

Those who still work for him—each ghastly day
Brings yet another call for genuflection.
You stand before us, trying to display
A shred of dignity, while your dejection
Is evident to all. He will betray
The little of what’s left of your affection
And claim you were a tramp, a fraud, a loser:
Now is the time to fly from your abuser!

 XXXI

Enough! Enough! Republicans be brave.
Call for a special session and declare
The time has come for him to go. In grave,
Regretful, rueful prose say this nightmare
Must end, and that the goal must be to save
The country lest we fall into despair
And close up shop, for it will be too late
To rescue the scuppered vessel of state.

Posted in The Trumpiad, Works: Fiction | Tagged , , ,

The Trumpiad: Book 1—Canto 6

June 2017

I

June is upon us, and we’re six months in.
Each day brings more alarm and conflagration.
Each month I find it harder to begin
My task without dread and exasperation.
Yet, pace Dowd, De Sade, and James Baldwin,
A blanket character assassination
Does not come easily to me. And why?
Because we’re both born under Gemini.

II

Now I know what you’re thinking: that it’s crazy
To think astrology can hold the key
To understanding how he ticks—a lazy,
Reductive stand-in for psychiatry
That lacks a scientific structure for the ways he
Determines his reality to be.
But my aim is not psychotherapeutic,
But mythopoetic and hermeneutic.

III

We Geminis are ruled by Mercury,
Quicksilver god of messages and trade.
A puckish trickster, always moving, he
Can talk his way out of an escapade,
Employ seduction to the nth degree,
And wave his hands like weapons to persuade
You into thinking that it would be great
To hand him moolah or go on a date. 

IV

Unfettered by the need to say what’s true,
Ungrounded by responsibility,
We Geminis love searching for what’s new—
New friends, new baubles, new places to be
Where all the action is. However, through
Legerdemain or glib aside, we flee
When we feel that we are constrained or bored,
Or even worse, belittled or ignored.

V

All light and air, we have no shadow side:
Commercial skill is also greed for money.
We can sell anything, and we’re both snide
And blithe; we’re quick, we’re cruel, and we’re funny.
God of transitions, Mercury can slide
From one mood to the next: one moment sunny,
The next a pouting child. We’re in the know,
But, if you ask “about what?” we must go! 

VI

Like Dug the cartoon dog in Up! we’re swayed
By any passing fad or observation.
(Squirrel!) We are good-naturedly waylaid
By surface shininess, improvisation,
And gossip. Anything that is too staid
Or needs a molecule of concentration
Can make us want to run or raise our guard:
We do not like what’s complex or what’s hard. 

VII

In spite of all these traits that are alarming
It’s hard for us always to be malicious.
We’re much more comfortable being charming.
We don’t like direct conflict; we’re ambitious
First, to seal the deal by disarming,
And, second, make the buyer like us. Vicious
Retorts and personal attacks come later,
Should we fail to wow as a speculator.

VIII

Therefore, my (tepid) rancor might be due
To that I see myself in him. How much
We crave the spotlight . . . only for the view:
Pretending that we have the common touch,
We fear that we’ll be judged a parvenu
And not up to the task. So, as a crutch
We bluster that of course we have a plan, sir!
(As long as we can make it through the stanza.)

IX

That said, I’d like to hope I’d shun extortion,
Restrain myself from speaking off the cuff.
I’d want my staff to keep things in proportion
And say when I’ve done or not done enough.
I think I’d know to delegate, for sure shun
Contempt and defamation, take the rough
And smooth as equal parts of holding power,
And not measure achievement by the hour. 

X

I trust I’d want to know the truth from lies,
And that I’d not be frightened of dissent.
I hope I’d face my faults and not disguise
The danger facing any president
Of only seeking good news or the highs
And pomp of office. I would not prevent
A range of views from being aired before me,
And I would not ask people to adore me. 

XI

I’ll never be the Commander in Chief
And so can tell myself I’d have a heart
And would behave. It comes as some relief
That Taurus is ascendant in my chart,
Which gives me discipline. But that bold thief,
Light-fingered Hermes, can outdo, outsmart
All those who’d tie him down. And don’t expect
Him to be cool, serene, or circumspect. 

XII

The restlessness of Mercury’s a blessing:
If ousted, he will find someone to blame
And move on to the next thing. No point stressing
Disgrace to Hermes, for he has no shame.
In fact, he might already (I am guessing)
Be formulating a sly plan to game
Washington, DC so he can exact
The maximal revenge for being sacked.

XIII

All things considered, I have thus concluded
It’s not a superhero that we need.
To pine for an immortal is deluded,
A vanity despair and weakness feed;
A wish the idle and the hope-denuded
Use to avoid the worry they’ll succeed
If they rose up and fought for recognition:
The comfort of unnoticed opposition.                                         

XIV

The paradox is that this fake and fraud
Pretends to speak the “truth” of discontent.
Those who believe they’ve been ignored applaud
Someone they wanted to smash all consent
And take their country back. This sham and bawd,
Who only cares about himself, was meant
To be the people’s tribune and to fight
So they’d receive what they thought theirs by right.

XV

O double treachery! The boob and pill
Is too incompetent for his agenda:
He has no understanding of the Hill
And each day he blurts out random addenda,
Errors, tirades, redactions that will kill
All legislation. Each speech in the blender
Makes an already hard job even tougher,
As well as those who voted for him suffer.

XVI

The second insult: what he’s getting done
Does nothing for his base. The health-care plan
That passed the House (no matter how it’s spun)
Will hurt the poor and old. Yet, this conman
Told folks his plan would be the best, bar none:
For whom?’s the question. How a person can
So wantonly mislead those who believed
Is shocking even to me, the undeceived.

XVII

The Muslim ban won’t stop one terrorist;
The tax plan will not help the middle-class.
The budget ends the programs that assist
The hard-hit regions, jobless, and the mass
Of people in the red states, who have kissed
Their welfare net goodbye. A coup de grâce
Will surely come when, sometime in the fall,
He tells them that he will not build the Wall. 

XVIII

Thus, more supporters will become addicted,
And, due to Sessions, spend more time in jail.
The infrastructure bill, which was depicted
As quasi-multi-partisan, will fail
Because he doesn’t care for the afflicted
Who need jobs, hope, and luck. So he will bail
On the few promises he’s not discarded
To fantasize that he’s still well-regarded.

XIX

We do not need a Storm or Wolverine:
What we demand is one Republican
Or ten to say, “He can no more demean
The office of the president. This man
Is not up to the task, and the obscene
Series of follies that define the span
Of his administration must be ended.
He can no longer by us be defended.”

XX

I don’t expect McConnell, Cornyn, Cruz,
Paul Ryan, or all the GOP hacks
To stand up and be counted. They refuse
To put their country first or face the facts.
As long as they think they have more to lose
By ditching him, they’ll not bring down the ax.
These profiles of gutless hypocrisy
Won’t move until it’s risk- and conscience-free.

XXI

But I assume you’re not like them, Ben Sasse.
I hear they walk tall in Plainview, Nebraska.
I like to think you’re in a different class
From all the other hucksters. It’s a task a
Straightshooter from the heartland could amass
Thanks of a grateful nation for: unmask a
Disreputable charlatan, and teach him
A lesson he won’t soon forget. Impeach him!

XXII

What hope that Lindsey Graham, John McCain,
And Pat Toomey will all exclaim, “Enough!”?
What more is needed, Sen. Collins of Maine,
To show that you are made of sterner stuff?
Lisa Murkowski surely can’t maintain
Her silence. And what happened to the bluff
Bob Corker or John Thune of South Dakota?
I can’t believe you don’t care one iota.

XXIII

Leaving aside each crime and misdemeanor,
Endangering the sources and intel;
Ignoring that he makes Anthony Weiner
Look cherubic; and avoiding, as well,
How he and his clan take us to the cleaner
To have their pricy pleasures, what the hell
Do you believe should be the repercussions
Of being so damn cozy with the Russians? 

XXIV

But who is this who’s coming to the rescue?
A grey-haired white dude, name of Robert Mueller.
The FBI guy will weed out the fescue
And flush the bushes to find if our ruler
Is innocent, a Nicolae Ceausescu,
Or simply just a grown-up Ferris Bueller
Who can’t hack working. With deliberation,
We hope Bob saves us from disintegration. 

XXV

I trust Mueller will take his time (a friend),
For Mercury hates pressure. He’s already
Tweeting his outrage, umbrage that won’t end
Even outside the White House. But the steady
Drip, drip of revelations might impend
His losing all control. Then, young Jared—he
Will advocate to him his precious brand
Will tank should he continue this last stand.

XXVI

At that point, he’ll claim the system’s corrupt,
That Washington was always out to get him.
He’ll rail that all the politicians sucked
And that he hated everyone who met him.
He’ll state without his leadership we’re fucked
And we’ll be sorry that we have upset him.
Licking his wounds, he’ll retreat to his Tower
Like Sauron, and wait to restore his power.

XXVII

I hope they throw the book at him, I do.
I hope they toss his helmet, clip his heels,
And force him to confess and grovel, too.
I hope they probe his actions till he squeals
So he can know what he has put us through,
And recognize what each one of us feels.
I hope all those who voted for him see
How bad he was, is, and will always be.

XXVIII

Yet, knowing him and us, he’ll find a way
To avoid more than a mild slap on the wrist.
For he’s America—Live for the day!
Give him another chance! Let’s co-exist!—
Or, at the least, the rich, white man’s cachet
Allows him to walk off into the mist
With millions in his termination packet
That lets him finance yet another racket.

XXIX

So Hermes laughs again—the kid takes flight:
Spreading his rumors, throwing cash around,
And joining A and B with C. Delight
Aerates his freedom, animates each bound.
Wired all day and sleepless through the night,
He makes sure his feet never touch the ground:
The Peter Pan of endless broken vows,
The boy who stole Apollo’s sacred cows.

XXX

More seriously, what shall we conclude
About these disunited states we live in:
That we allowed someone plainly unglued
To be the leader? Will we be forgiven
By those who follow us and whom we’ve screwed?
To whom will our souls turn to be shriven
When we’re confronted in the coming years
With blood and sweat and toil and seas of tears?

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The Trumpiad: Book 1—Canto 5

May 2017

Prelude—A Villanelle against the Villain

Let fly the flags; resistance songs upraise;
As one, chant slogans and hope reignite:
For we have made it through a hundred days.

We were convinced that he would set ablaze
The Constitution, and let the “alt-right”
Fly their false flags as long as he got praise

Pursuing strongman tactics and mores.
We feared our nation would end overnight,
But we have made it through a hundred days.

The President continually displays
His rank incompetence. But now in sight
Are warning flags voters will reappraise

What’s tolerable. Will he let malaise
Entomb us all, or conjure fear and fright
To terrorize the next one hundred days?

Who knows? It never ceases to amaze
How much confusion, obloquy, and spite
His flagging, on-the-fly rule spits up: rays

Of light we see, but in too many ways,
It’s clear the worst is yet to come: so, fight!
Let fly the flags; resistance songs upraise;
That we may live another hundred days.

I

Now I’ve returned from Hades, I am bound
To ponder how to prosecute my story.
My muse has told me that another round
Of o me miserum or (short of glory)
Cheap shots and gripe will only make me sound
A whining malcontent. Much better for me
And readers, she’s said, to conjure a fighter
Who’ll do the necessary to the blighter. 

II

Perhaps she wants a hunk who’s lithe and lusty,
To fight against our leader’s callous vanity.
He’s somewhat dim perhaps, but brave and trusty.
His steadfastness will shame the cruel inanity,
And all that’s piecemeal, shambolic, or fusty
About the administration. His humanity
Will shine through in his dash and derring-do
And strike a marked contrast with You Know Who.

III

When asked to serve, he’ll lift the nearest blade
And rush to fight without much preparation.
He’ll down the enemy and won’t be stayed
Though one might wish for a sign of mentation.
And while as subtle as a hand-grenade
Our hero will provide some compensation
In that before he’s righted every wrong,
He’ll hymn a leitmotifed chromatic song.

IV

Of course, the danger with the martial sort
Is that he can’t take domesticity.
Once war is over, he returns to port;
And after he’s kissed his Penelope,
And she’s told him to cut the hedge and sort
His man cave out and clean the lavatory,
He starts to think it would be quite a wheeze
To sail through the Pillars of Hercules

V

And westward to the sunset. I prefer,
Someone who’s blessed with brains and guile and cunning,
Who’ll toss each pencil pusher and poseur
A withering bon mot to send them running;
Whose wit will cut to ribbons each frotteur
Who rubs him the wrong way artlessly punning,
And rend their orifices raw and tender.
No, let’s leave him alone, and change the gender. 

VI

Let us dream up a fearsome warrior queen
Who’ll grapple with the groper and his clan;
With gimlet eye and steady gaze she’ll clean
The clocks of every spineless congressman
Who tells her that gals like her should be seen
And not heard. While reciting Thich Nhat Hanh,
She’ll grip his scrotum in an iron fist
And should he not be truly mindful, twist.

VII

Or someone understated, shy, petite,
Yet five foot two of compact dynamite.
She gets her nous and savvy from the street,
And knows when to give way and when to fight.
A Daoist ninja warrior, who’s quite sweet
Unless you cross her, then this fearless sprite
Will unleash merry hell upon your cheeks
Until you can’t park your sore tush for weeks.

VIII

Of course, George Gordon was being sarcastic
When he implied heroes were two a penny.
Partly, of course, since (far from periphrastic)
He could halloo his own achievements when he
Rained down his scorn, either wry or bombastic.
I don’t possess half of his talents; any
New Britomart that I cause to appear
Will likely flop before she shakes her spear.

IX

It’s possible that for the Kali Yuga
The goddess, skull-bedecked, would suit, or Shiva;
Or someone au courant like Freddy Krueger
Could hand out his sharp nightmares; and “throng-cleaver,”
Which Gimli wields, or Rutger Hauer’s luger
Might do the trick. Or (more Leave it to Beaver
And much less bloody) we could in a pinch
Call Clarence Darrow or Atticus Finch.

X

The movies are replete with Marvel Comics
Heroes and villains, mutants and X-men.
I’m bored by such unhappy souls: where’s Tom Mix
To thunder to the rescue, or John Glenn
To once more thrill us all with astronomics?
Wolf Man, Catwoman, Amber, Kylo Ren
Might move some merchandise: but times are drastic—
Since real life is ten times more phantastic.

XI

In sum, it’s hard to locate a game-changer
Since any character is trumped by fact.
You think each day cannot get any stranger,
Yet whether through crime, misdeed, or compact,
Another scandal bursts, another danger
To the world order: set up to distract
From some grand plan or mere incompetence?
And do we even know the difference? 

XII

What fresh hell can this be? we gasp and sigh.
Let’s summarize what we have learned to date.
In Spring last year, Justice, the FBI,
And others partnered to investigate
Attempts by Russian hackers to deny
Mrs. Clinton the White House; fabricate
Fake news; and, by release of Dems’ emails,
Avert notice from GOP travails.

XIII

The six-agency group aspires to find
Who paid the hackers. Meanwhile, House and Senate
Intelligence committees are assigned
To find out just who was behind it, when it
Occurred, and what effect it had. The mind
Would need the wisdom of a Daniel Dennett
To compute each subtle ramification
Of each conjecturable machination.

XIV

Why was the House Intel Committee chair
Meeting with staffers in the dead of night?
What info did he get and did he share
And on what planet would he think this right?
What does Mike Flynn know? Will we find out where
Both Manafort and Page fit in? Will light
Be shed on Russia’s role in the campaign
Or will dissimulation win again?

XV

How should we comprehend each hour’s claims?
Russia was once the flavor of the day,
But now is wrong and China right; war-games
For World War III with the DPRK
Go on apace; each tidy set of aims
In foreign policy in every way
Are tossed aside. Existence is at stake:
Yet missiles are launched over chocolate cake.

XVI

Meanwhile, we pray that Jared and Ivanka
Kindly employ their finely tailored gloss
And slick PR skills as a sort of Sanka
To water down their caffeinated boss.
But even they can’t hide the fact this wanker
Is without scruple, couldn’t give a toss
About a single thing but saving face
With those he says he represents: his base.

XVII

Bizarre it is, like Midas in reverse,
That all he touches turns from “gold” to crap.
For Billy Bush was thriving, then the curse
Of his off-camera remarks’ mishap
Saw him thrown off his primetime show, and worse,
The man who egged him on avoids the rap
To ride his “locker room” identity
To an unconscionable victory.

XVIII

And Bill O’Reilly, old-white-people bait,
And fan because he boosts his Nielsen rating,
Is felt up by the little hands of fate.
Women talk of his calls while masturbating,
Unwanted propositions for a date,
And, though Bill’s forced to go (true, with a grating
Financial deal), his erstwhile guest can blabber
(Unpunished) how he is a pussy-grabber.

XIX

Now Roger Ailes, Steve Bannon, and Paul Ryan
Have had their wings clipped (Flynn might go to jail).
Chaffetz is done, Nunes is toast, and Lyin’
Ted has not been heard from. And I would quail
If I were Roger Stone. Only a scion
It seems is safe from being doomed to fail.
Advice to pols: think of ways not to show
If you’re invited to Mar-a-Lago.

XX

The irony is that he’s not the lone
Villainous fool or showy would-be king,
Whose arrogant, half-macho half-cornpone
Belief is l’etat c’est moi posturing—
They want to think they’re like Don Corleone:
Dispensing grace with a kiss of the ring.
And (if you’re President Rody Duterte)
Ensuring that drug dealers don’t reach thirty.

XXI

In Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Has commandeered the state and now can reign
Until he’s seventy-five. And, deadly spawn,
Young Chairman Kim has decades left of pain
To inflict on his poor country. Woe upon,
Poor Egypt, Venezuela, and the bane
Of all of who hope for peace—Putin-Assad:
That monstrous chimera of all that’s bad.

XXII

Jeb Bush called him “the chaos candidate,”
And pundits say it could prove advantageous
For him whose moves one can’t anticipate
To challenge sacred cows; the more outrageous
The move, the crazier that it might rate,
The more a realignment that this magus
May conjure: well, I’m not sure what you’re drinking,
But this is nothing more than wishful thinking.

XXIII

Chaos by definition’s uncontrolled;
It’s always prettier before it starts.
Strategic brinksmanship to break the mold
Is well and good, but sometimes finer arts
Of statecraft, knowing when it’s good to fold,
Are needed to resolve the harder parts.
Khrushchev and Kennedy in sixty-two
Feared what might happen if they saw it through.

XXIV

We assume that Kim Jong-un’s not really crazy
But ups the ante to quash all dissent.
We assume the President won’t ape Scorsese
And that he’ll cool the jawjaw to prevent
War breaking out. For now, Goldwater’s daisy
Remains unplucked, but merely to foment
A crisis to prove that you can draw faster
Will, in this case, lead only to disaster. 

XXV

Rex Tillerson tells us that regime change
Is not the aim, just a nuke-free Korea;
The generals around him will arrange
A peaceful climbdown—there’s no need to fear
That he’ll go off half-cocked. Is it not strange
That in this escapade it is not clear
Just who we mean? For what we say of Kim
Could just as readily apply to him.

XXVI

Is it not weird that it is Xi Jinping
To whom we turn to calm the situation?
That moderation might come from Beijing
Cannot but make my head twirl, for this nation
(Once this man’s bête noire) now commands the ring,
Can get any sort of accommodation
On Taiwan, Spratly Islands’ reefs, Tibet
That it wants from its new best friend and pet.

XXVII

Meanwhile, health care repeal’s snagged again,
The vaunted tax plan’s but a single sheet;
The economy hums on; we wait in vain
For the great infrastructure bill; Main Street
Continues to endure the opioid pain;
The Muslim ban’s tied up in court; the seat
Of government is stalled while national treasures
Are compromised for the extractors’ pleasures.

XXVIII

So we return to letting plutocrats
And plunderers despoil, deface, and spill.
And while this fragile planet warms, fat cats
And their investors take no care, nor will
The government hold them to account: for stats
And warnings won’t stop them firing the grill.
So, yes, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose;
But why should I accept such status quos?

XXIX

I pen this just before the climate rally
Will gather in DC to call for action—
This quarter century marks a sad tally
Of thwarted goals, missed targets, lack of traction
Among the people. We still shilly-shally
Or (worse) give time and credence to a fraction
That claims that scientists exaggerate
The effect of climate change and we should wait.

XXX

For what? Until Miami’s in the ocean,
The permafrost has thawed, poles open seas?
When Byron wrote his poetry, the notion
That we might end life in four centuries
Would have been risible, but now in motion
Is warming of four, even six, degrees,
Not seen on Earth for millions of years.
How is not this the sum of all our fears?

XXXI

How is not this the focus of our era?
Why aren’t we doing all that must be done
To end our use of fossil fuels; bring nearer
New skills and policies so more than one
Or two of us survive? What could be clearer
Than this grim task? Yet what son of a gun
Is leading us into the deepest hole
But he who thinks the answer is “More coal!”?

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