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 honor or integrity
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 pawn
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 remarkable about this turn
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 small satisfaction
Could be obtained when day by wretched 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 expression
Of 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. Goodness, no sirree!
His talk meandered on 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 waning 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’d ensure
Emasculated rule would not endure.

XVI

How apt it is, therefore, that there appears
A white man without conscience, subtlety,
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 as day is dawning.
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 feigned interest in.
It’s not about the state of General Motors,
Or global trade, or (maybe) even skin.
It’s not about who 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’s perception:
It’s their job to determine all conception. 

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 outbreak of abjection.
You stand before us, trying to display
A shred of dignity, while this infection
Of a man spreads disease. 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.

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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 consternation.
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 framework 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 dog in Up! we are distracted
By any passing fad or observation.
(Squirrel!) We are good-naturedly attracted
To surface shininess, improvisation,
And gossip. Anything that is protracted
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; our main wishes
Are (1), to seal the deal by disarming,
And (2) to 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 practice caution,
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, apportion
My time appropriately, 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 trust 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;
The sort of hope the idle and excluded
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 predicted
To have bipartisan support, 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 he’ll save 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. In comes 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 at politicians, and erupt
At anyone who ever said they 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 some deliberation.
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 ironic
When he implied heroes were two a penny.
Partly, of course, since he was ur-Byronic
He could halloo his own achievements when he
Rained down his scorn, either wry or sardonic.
I don’t possess half of his talents; any
New Britomart that I cause to appear
Will likely flop before she draws her spear.

IX

It’s possible that for the Kali Yuga
The goddess, skull-bedecked, would suit, or Shiva;
Or (someone more au courantFreddy 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 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 reversal?
Russia was once the flavor of the day,
But now is wrong and China right; rehearsal
For World War III with the DPRK
Goes on apace; each tidy universal
Of foreign policy in every way
Is 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 great
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 of the stages
May happen: 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 go full 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 two hundred years ago, 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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The Trumpiad: Book 1—Canto 4

April 2017

I

I’m cogitating on this, when appears
Before me a familiar compound ghost.
The wry smile, weary mien beyond his years,
And fierce disgust bear witness to a host
Of agonies imposed upon his peers—
Of murder, beatings—which would break the most
Resilient of souls. And yet his air
Betrays no trace of loathing or despair. 

II

He turns to me: “No doubt, you’ve been advised
To reach beyond the base to comprehend
What happened and why pollsters were surprised,
And what message the voting might portend;
I’m sure you’re pondering quite why the prized
White working-class to whom you condescend
Would place their bets upon a slug and fop
Being the one who should come out on top.”

III

He says, “Always remember: from the start
The ‘patriots’ made a determination
Of who would be considered ‘us,’ a part
Of the rich fabric, who an aggravation.
No war, no act, no president, no art
Can sound the depths of such repudiation,
Until together, honestly, we face
The scourge that is our legacy on race.

IV

“Obama isn’t dumb, he knew his place
In history could be a divagation;
That one black president would not erase
The original error of discrimination.
He realized we’d work to do to chase
Away the fantasy that our foundation
Did not bake in injustice, bigotry,
And violence against people like me. 

V

“How much this monster must hate 44:
To be so pointedly and soundly mocked
By him—a witty, bright man, who could score
Without assaulting women, and who rocked
With Jay Z and Beyoncé, and what’s more
Was not emasculated. He cockblocked
White male assumption and entitlement
That a black man could not be president.

VI

“You see it in his jutting chin, his stance,
The swollen chest and extra lengthy tie;
His dread of being unmasked, the sidelong glance,
And fear of ridicule; his need to lie
And claim that he’s the victim and enhance
His image of himself as the good guy.
His confidence is obviously a trick;
A Jenga stack held by a single brick. 

VII

“The man’s a patsy, but even a sap
Can dog whistle. The birth certificate;
The Central Park Five, the ‘worst leader’ crap—
All these tell whites that what he means by ‘great’
Is that he’ll make black people doff their cap
To massa once again, and what of late
We’ve gained will be rolled back. On this, he’s sure:
Whiteness is normative, blackness impure. 

VIII

“His posse of ‘alt-right’ supremacists
Shows noxious whiteness continues to fester;
Each washed-out, knock-kneed, sad sack that exists
Believes George Washington is his ancestor;
Your pallid, toothless, inbred jerk insists
That he’s a paragon, the very best a
Country like ours produces: but for proof
Who are they going to point to? Dylann Roof?

IX

“Now, liberals like you want to be cleared
Of guilt by melanin association.
But name a time when black men were not smeared
By similar slurs: sexual predation,
Assault, rebellion? Or black men feared
White women’s words against them? Friend, this nation
Is steeped in hate and fear that’s so extensive,
That your weak ‘It’s not me!’ is plain offensive. 

X

“That’s why I’m tired of being told to wait
For white America to ‘get it.’ No,
It’s said, it’s not their fault that what was great
To them leaves out Friedan, Vietnam, Jim Crow,
And whom you couldn’t love or even date
Without some buzz-cut clown or GI Joe
Beating the shit out of you every day,
Joined by his righteous pals, the KKK.

XI

“It’s hard to face such privilege: to admit
That poor and sick and jobless though you are,
You don’t, won’t ever, think that you don’t fit;
That your translucent pelt bears you so far
Beyond your brother’s tanned hide. To submit
To such a truth would throw off your North Star.
For Liberty’s and Uncle Sam’s pale skins
Absolve you of a multitude of sins.

XII

“Ironically, we black folks want to cleave
To what this nation promises to all.
In spite of crackers telling us to ‘Leave!
Go back to Africa’ each day, we fall
For all the jingoistic humbug, weave
Our beautiful illusions that the small
Improvements in our lives will one day lead
To a day when no more black children will bleed.”

XIII

He stops and draws upon his cigarette.
“Well, there it is. ‘My country, ‘tis of thee.’”
He looks me up and down. “Now, don’t forget,”
He adds, “That words can soothe too easily
The soul of heartache. And it’s a good bet
That’s what you’re hoping for; that you will see
A way through all the muck. But it’s much harder
To stoke your rage and reignite your ardor.

XIV

“Write what you will, you’ll never be Du Bois.
You cannot claim to ‘sing America.’
Red, white, or blue—your color is a choice
Where we are always black.” He paused. “We are
Always the other. So, you use your voice
In any way you wish, take it as far
As you can go. I wish you luck, you’ll need it:
A middling gift with only pique to feed it.”

XV

At that, he disappears into the haze.
I breathe out and reflect. It’s seems my fate
Is not to wreathe my head with laurel bays
But to be shown by writers, live and late,
The insufficiency of my poor lays
In apprehending the affairs of state.
Dejected, I trudge slowly to the exit,
When from the mist a Frenchman cries out, “Sex it.”

XVI

I raise my head and, lo, in some decay,
Is none other than the Marquis de Sade.
Chuckling and gibbering, déshabillé,
Scratching his flaking scalp, clearly half-mad,
He bows extravagantly. “Bonne soirée
(It’s always evening here): You’re feeling bad
About your prospects as a satirist.
Might I, a humble sybarite, assist?”

XVII

I nod. What, really, do I have to lose?
“Your trouble, m’sieur, is that you’re too polite.
Even Ms. Dowd—her talent’s to amuse
Not scandalize, the other’s to be right.
But real satire doesn’t pick and choose
Whom to be friends with and with whom to fight.
The point is not to be banal and pensive;
But to be universally offensive.

XVIII

“What better way than sex to spill the bedpan
And pour forth all the effluence and stink;
You may ejaculate or stick to deadpan,
Evoke a burlesque babe or slim-hipped twink,
But whether you give or like getting head, man,
Dig ‘in your face’ or more ‘nudge, nudge, wink wink,’
Sex breaks down every barrier and taboo,
Because whom you shaft will in turn shaft you.

XIX

“The priest caught pants-down with his catamite,
The statesman rifling through his mistress’ drawers;
The moralist found naked at dawn’s light
Bound by a dominatrix on all fours;
The socialite whose sateless appetite
For rough trade goes beyond her menopause:
These illustrate desire is unrestrained,
However we might wish it be contained.

XX

“The judges thrashed by minxes in their nighties,
The wiseguys felled by languorous brunettes,
The cops fellated in their tighty-whities,
The dixiecrats impaled by black coquettes,
The honeytraps who snare the high-and-mighties,
The teens on the back seats of their Corvettes:
All testify to the lordly misrule
That renders sex the satirist’s best tool. 

XXI

“The MILF who finds the plumber’s snake most handy,
The blonde who dives into a mogul’s pocket;
The lingam that licks each yogini’s candy,
The tux who fires the deb off like a rocket;
The cad whose mick slips in the virgin’s shandy:—
As every plug fits snugly in its socket
So sex supplies the necessary juice
That kneads and fluffs our mountain of abuse. 

XXII

“The Mennonite who trolls for ladyboys,
The imam who courts his hermaphrodite,
The Hasidim cruising the streets for goys,
The monk who stains his habit every night,
The nun whose bedside table’s full of toys,
Renunciates whom lust comes back to bite
Reveal a strain of sex that’s anti-clerical
But cannot be dismissed as just chimerical. 

XXIII

“So, my advice is stop being so pious
About what’s wrong. Ignore the arty-farty;
When has there ever been a time when bias
For one’s own blood, land, ethnic group, or party
Did not rule hearts? The politicians ply us
With nostrums that lead us to think we’re smart, we
Compound our vanities with the fixation
That history bends to amelioration. 

XXIV

“But hate and prejudice are unremitting,
In every decade thoughtlessness renewed.
Elites gain pleasure regularly spitting
Upon the schmucks who itch to be subdued.
They let the shysters take their power, pitting
Themselves against their fellows to collude
With hucksters whose main message (finely honed)
Is, “I’ll make sure the other guy is boned.”

XXV

“So, damn each conscientious Pharisee
Who never votes because ‘it’s all a sham’;
The mouth-breather who drawls, ‘He speaks for me,’
When douche-y hacks upchuck their aural spam;
The selfish tightwad who only feels free
To get involved when he is in a jam:
These bozos with their manifest hypocrisy—
Are nothing but the ass-wipes of democracy.

XXVI

“Through their inertia or their votes they got
What they deserved: a venal, oily fake,
As disengaged and ignorant as the lot
Of them; a lazy, good-for-nothing rake
Who aims to yank the handle of each slot
Machine of government to cash in, make
A ton more money on cable TV,
And once again bankrupt the bourgeoisie.

XXVII

“Your task, then, is to let it all hang out.
Imagine those two Russian hookers humping
Above his orange corpulence; the lout
(Wearing a shower cap) enjoys them dumping
Their piss into his navel; but the sprout
That is his dick he can’t prevent from slumping
Each time a golden drop lands with a splat,
For fear that this might all be kompromat.

XXVIII

“We know the pussy-grabber craves patootie.
He longs to let his grubby fingers roam.
Think of his sweaty crevices, the fruity
Pong of his cheap cologne. When he gets home
And boasts to gamesmen playing ‘Call of Booty,’
Imagine women smearing cleansing foam
Within each orifice the mountebank
Has pawed, or into which his damp lips sank.”

XXIX

The old lech stops and grins. “Feel better now?”
He leers. “The artist’s role is overrated,
In Hades no one ever has a cow
At what you wrote. So much of it is dated
And all the names forgotten, anyhow.
Whether you’re scandalous or understated
Most will ignore your thoughts in all respects
But one—and that is when you speak of sex.”

XXX

He waves me off and, fortified, I rise
Until the surface of the earth I meet.
Before me spring has lightened up the skies
The flowers bloom and songbirds dart and tweet.
My time in hell has given me supplies
With which to hone my wit and scrub my feet.
My task is clear: without doubt or revision,
To stand and fight in total opposition.

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The Trumpiad: Book 1—Canto 3

March 2017

(Inspired in part by Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column of February 18, 2017.)

I

In epics, usually at their very heart,
The plot stops and the hero, marked by fate,
Encounters a Parnassian whose art
The poet thinks incomparable. The great
Wordsmith displays a tableau that, from start
To end, unfurls a pageant of the state,
With warriors both mythic and historical,
And women who are plainly allegorical.

II

This interlude’s intended to attest
To those who thought you just a Grub Street hack,
That you’ve a right to be among the best,
And that you don’t care if they’re talking smack
About you—you know you’re not like the rest,
For Destiny’s fair winds are at your back.
You are the voice and conscience of the age:
Pretenders will be forced to leave the stage!

III

If nothing else, conning this entr’acte
Gives you a chance to prove you’ve got the chops:
Skewering enemies, displaying tact
With those who may go either way, and props
To those who are your friends—for now. Thus, packed
With figures (in both senses), such name-drops
With any luck might last for centuries,
Although, of course, there are no guarantees.

IV

That time has come, dear reader: let’s descend
Into the depths of Hades, where the Styx
Meanders through the Tartaran gloom. Attend!
The lost ones wailing at our politics;
The anguish of the Founders at the end
Of the Republic. Even dreary Nyx
Pleads for a glint of lightness to set free
The souls of Uncle Sam and Liberty.

V

These two were last seen at the Inauguration.
They’d come from sleeping in a cardboard shack
Near the Potomac, to cheer on the nation
As it changed leaders. But their jaws fell slack
At the new president’s disinformation.
With shattered hearts they wandered slowly back
And that night gave their country up for lost.
They sought out Charon, paid their dues, and crossed.

VI

How sad they seem! How gaunt, how wan, how worn!
The flaming torch that she had once upheld
Extinguished; his stovepipe tattered and torn;
The passion in his piercing eyes now quelled;
And all their facial muscles limp, forlorn,
As if from Eden they had been expelled.
Alone, on seeing them, so frail and weak,
I gather all my wits and start to speak. 

VII

I call to them, “O Lady Liberty
And Uncle Sam, had you waited a day,
You would have stood among a shining sea
Of people of all colors, straight and gay,
Embodying all the diversity,
Of our fair land.” But they wander away,
Not hearing what I cry. I shake my head:
It’s not that easy comforting the dead.

VIII

My eyes search for the Sybil for this mission:
Who might I—poetaster, versifier—
Ask as as guide for such a composition?
Nor Virgil, Hermes, Homer, nor the lyre
Of Orpheus are in my range; my edition
Needs a cut-price Calliope to inspire.
Without blinking an eye (for I’m not proud),
I summon the specter of Maureen Dowd.

IX

Behold she manifests herself! Her retinue
Are twin putti, Irreverence and Snark,
And the weird sisters, Smirk and Snide and Rue.
All five give me the side eye, and remark
How strange it is that such a parvenu
As I would have the gumption or the spark
To call forth such as one as She, whose irony
Is wasted on a putz who thinks he’s Byron-y.

X

“Silence,” commands La Dowd, “for this poor fool
Must needs receive a vision; a charade
That I shall place before him that will school
Him in lampoon and farce; a masquerade
Of failings and defects. For ridicule
Must scatter the dumb show and crass parade
Of horrors that goosestep within the pate
Of that man who is now our head of state.”

XI

She lifts her arms, and all at once a cloud
Descends. I blink and stare: before my face
Deplorables effuse from the black shroud
Of deepest darkness and take up their place.
I cannot but admire how Maureen Dowd
Can conjure a cabal of such disgrace
As these atrocious phantoms. There they cluster:
A murderers’ row of perfidy and bluster.

XII

First, Insecurity: twitching and wincing,
Ranting about his ratings and fake news;
His arms flap as he tries to be convincing
At how much he’s adored by all the Jews.
Yet all the while, between the camp and mincing,
He’s scared someone will say that this king’s trews
Are non-existent, and the only clothing
He shrouds himself with are terror and loathing.

XIII

Next, Insincerity: homunculus,
A fawning, two-faced fraud, fair-weather friend.
So filled with fat lies is this incubus,
He floats free of the real. His pretend
World is so teeming and befouled with puss
That it makes all who live in it distend:
For there is yet no foolproof antidote
To remedy ventripotence and bloat.

XIV

Third in this wretched chain is Victimhood,
Sullen and mewling, whining, pouting, glum.
“Why can’t I get my own way? I’ll be good,
I promise,” is the falsehood that this bum
Whimpers and snivels. “I’m misunderstood.”
Yet Victimhood’s sly grin shows he’s not dumb.
If you cross him he’ll really put the boot in,
Either with goons or with his great pal Putin.

XV

Then twin sisters, Bullying and Suspicion:
Mean girls who hate all those they most admire;
Their shoulders cold, they seek total submission
From those they think might have their measure; fire
The talented and worthy. A condition
Of being a cool kid is you conspire
Against all comers: for it’s very clear
That if they can’t love you, at least they fear.

XVI

That shade rubbing his hands is Calculation:
His task to uproot Kindness and Largesse;
To work without respite to spike inflation
And expand Insincerity’s excess.
There’s Self-delusion (way above his station)
And clinging on despite lack of success.
And leading them in chants, replete with bile,
Is Gall, his mien sprayed with an unctuous smile.

XVII

The rest of them are lost within the herd
Of gluttons and con-artists, a great crowd
Of tics that swarm the Vices. A huge turd
From Egomania unlooses a cloud
Of vast windbaggery and the absurd.
It’s all too much. I shout, “Spirit of Dowd!
How might I, humble drudge, in these sad times,
Defeat such turpitude with my poor rhymes?”

XVIII

“You think I’ve got the answer?” laughs the Muse.
“I’m just a columnist. We like to think
We hold some clout, but really we just schmooze
And write down third-hand gossip. All that ink
Is spilled for nothing. Yes, we point j’accuse;
Occasionally, we may kick up a stink
That might cause blushes; but that’s very rare.
Most of the time we simply blow hot air.

XIX

“The president’s an idiot, but folly
Has been the stuff of politics forever.
He’s not the first commander off his trolley
And will not be the last. We might say ‘Never
Again,’ and yet we find ourselves, by golly,
Once more with reprobates, pulling the lever
For someone who is chock-a-block with flaws
Yet whom we know will push our favorite cause.

XX

“This guy is big box-office. He’s appalling
Of course, but equally compelling viewing.
He’s always known that showing off’s his calling
Especially when he is scenery-chewing.
What does he care if he’s accused of balling
Or doing what he just should not be doing?
It’s all part of his big plan to convey a
Strong message that he’ll always be a player.

XXI

“In all your agony, where is the blame
For Hillary, the Democrats, the press?
Obama was too cool; the Blue team’s game
Was hoping trumpery would more or less
Hand Hillary the White House; or her name
Was all she really needed to progress.
You never win because it is your turn
That’s what nomenklaturas never learn.

XXII

“I’m not denying race, misogyny,
Or white fragility don’t play a role;
The right dissembled, and ‘identity’
Works both ways. But, what’s new? Sure, digging coal
And building walls aren’t real policy,
But class must count for something, and your goal
Of holding the Obama coalition
Failed in the face of working-class sedition. 

XXIII

“You think that Sanders would have won the poll?
A Jewish socialist who looks a mess?
Each anti-Semite, John Birch manqué troll
Would have attacked him, and with great success.
In days, they would have swallowed him up whole
And fed his body to the right-wing press.
He may have thrilled by being authentic.
But his was in the end the same old shtick.

XXIV

“So cut your blather, wise up, and get real.
This man’s a threat, yes; he must be opposed.
But your task is not simply to appeal
To your own kind. You must be more hard-nosed,
And take down cant wherever, bring to heel
The nonsense from the left that’s presupposed
To be ‘correct.’ Know that your form of group Id
Is just as dangerous and just as stupid.

XXV

“You’re going to have to leave your comfort zone,
And find out why your sort of liberal bias
Makes others squirm. You may employ high-flown
Language to demonstrate why they’re all liars,
But that does not excuse your haughty tone,
Preposterous conceits, and every pious
Assumption that the rest are just naifs,
Who’d, if they listened, welcome your beliefs.

XXVI

“You know the story of the quid pro quo
Between the Feds and Wall Street: heavyweights
In both wrapped up their package in a bow
And said, “You pay: that’s how it operates.”
If you’d been lent a pitchfork and flambeau
You would have been the first to storm the gates.
Meanwhile, Joe Blow, Jane Doe—with no relief—
Lost everything: car, cash, jobs, house, belief.

XXVII

“You said it: Uncle Sam and Liberty
Were homeless. Look around you at the losses
To opioids, hopelessness, penury;
The casual destruction of the bosses
Who ship their jobs abroad. Sure, you and me,
We’ve got some money stowed away, our tosses
Are such that we can count on luck most days,
But if you have no cash, it’s layaways

XXVIII

“And loan sharks, scams, and debt up to your ears.
Do Chuck Schumer and others speak to this?
Do your soy latte–, smoothie-drinking peers
Have any clue of what it’s like to miss
Your payments and find yourself in arrears?
Do you? In such a case, who cares for ‘cis’
Or ‘trans’ or BLM? They’re games to you
If your food doesn’t last the whole day through.

XXIX

“What you need is a story,” she went on.
“You can’t keep simply spouting derogation
Month after month. The Obama days are gone,
And now we need a hero for the nation
To countermand this schmo. A paragon,
Who’ll be a legendary demonstration
Of what we could be. It may be pretend,
But at least we’ll have fun before the end. 

XXX

“Now, if you will excuse me, I’ll be leaving
I really don’t belong here with the dead:
I’m still alive (though looks may be deceiving).
And while it’s true I have a heavy tread
Like Orpheus, I’m not concerned with grieving
The failure of a female figurehead.
The Clintons always have done very well
Each time they put their followers through hell.”

XXXI

At that, she leaves (yes, in a puff of smoke),
And all the Vices with her, while her train
Throws me a glance, complaining what a joke
It is I should have summoned her in vain,
Before they sidle off the stage. I croak
A brief farewell, then try to ascertain
Why she believed that it was mandatory:
To cast a hero who could lead a story.

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The Trumpiad: Book 1—Canto 2

February 2017

I

Where are the songs of Spring? (That’s a good question.)
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush.
The darling bud’s not even a suggestion
The lark ascending but a darkling thrush.
The smell of fear’s cloaked by nasal congestion,
And hectic cheeks rosy with flu’s first blush:
We raise a cry, given our president,
“Now is the winter of our discontent.”

II

It’s only been two weeks, and madness brews!
The Constitution creeks and sighs and buckles.
The lawyers have descended! Talks of coups,
Secret cabals, and gangs may give you chuckles
But this seems all too true to me. A fuse
Is lit and my advice is “Get out your brass knuckles.”
For something quite explosive has begun
And there’ll be street-fighting before it’s done.

III

I know last canto’s tone was too threnodic.
But like so many, I was out of humor.
I sought for major strains, something melodic,
Yet all that sounded were the bells of doom; a
Long, plangent ululation—a monodic,
Dyspeptic groan at the malignant tumor
That’s formed within the body politic,
And hasn’t been excised yet. Sick, O sick!

IV

Therefore, instead of taking medication,
Let me recall a topos from the ages:
A listing of the heroes of the nation,
No longer here, but who now fill the pages
Of history books. They reached the highest station,
And by the lesson of their lives, these sages
Reveal to us it might not be as bad
As it might seem in this dark season. Sad!

V

Picture a man uneasy in his skin,
Of awkward twitches, blatant paranoia,
Without a friend, but enemies within,
Who craves respect from those he loathes; destroyer
Of an elite that will not let him in;
Whose fear is that a congressman or lawyer
Will strip from him the one thing he gets kicks in:
That’s power. I refer to Richard Nixon.

VI

Is Tricky Dick not the progenitor?
Think of it: subterfuge, plots, half-baked theories,
The all-consuming need to settle a score,
The exposés, the leaks, an endless series
Of depositions, cover-ups, and more,
Leaving the world astonished at the sheer ease
With which one man can macerate the nation
Unless allowed to freebase adulation.

VII

Recall all Hardings and their Teapot Domes,
And Wilson’s resurrection of the Klan;
The bought-and-paid-for Gilded Age’s gnomes
Who helped the rich grow richer; and the span
Van Buren to Buchanan. Thoughtful tomes
Indict their many frauds and failures. Can
We locate in the list an Anglo-Saxon
More cruel than the bloody Andrew Jackson?

VIII

I venture not. Yet mediocrities
(Like Major Major) need a sinecure.
We, too, seek graft and shun indemnities!
How else will those of us—the immature—
Get others to do the work so we can squeeze
Into our schedule one more victory tour?
It’s fun to spend one’s time before adoring
Crowds chanting your name. All the rest is boring!

IX

This man, therefore, is not an aberration.
He seems that way because we have forgot
How much our past serves as an abnegation
Of how we dream we were and are: the rot
Of sharecropping and lynching, segregation,
Of Joe McCarthy, tenements, the lot
Of native peoples and the broken pacts:
These are not myths or misconstrued; they’re facts.

X

What if he’s ill, not merely solipsistic?
What if he cannot function without crisis?
You sense he’s desperate to go ballistic
And take thousands of troops to war with ISIS;
Inflate his chest and pose in a fascistic
Homage to Mussolini, which is why this
Scenario’s so weird. I ask again:
What if the U.S. president’s insane?

XI

It started at the Correspondents Dinner
When President Obama—who of late
This man had been asserting was a sinner
For not releasing his certificate
Of birth, and claiming he would soon begin a
Phishing trip to make sure he was innate—
Determined at the banquet with the accuser
To have a little fun with his abuser.

XII

It turned out that this “tough” investigator
Discovered that he didn’t like to see
The truth about himself. The fabricator
Resolved to run for office. History
Will demonstrate that this manipulator
Decided to hijack the GOP
Not out of care for ordinary folk
But just because he couldn’t take a joke.

XIII

The trouble is he’s not a merry pranker
Who yearns to punk and make his trifling plays.
He thrives on chaos, enmity, and rancor,
Thrills in deflection, falsehood, and malaise.
In English parlance, he’s a prick and wanker
Who kicks the sticks from old people, and preys
Upon the fragile. If he acts the thug,
He thinks, no one will see under the rug.

XIV

Talking of which, please tell me what’s that carpet
That sits atop his head? A dormant rat?
A shiny coprolite dug from a tar pit?
A grouchy and albino Maine Coon cat?
The decomposing body of a varmit,
Or golden guano from a loose-boweled bat?
It looks like someone piled on wet spaghetti
And dried it to resemble a small Yeti.

XV

Now I don’t like to dwell in negativity:
I’m mostly Mr. Sunshine, happy camper.
If leaning to the good is my proclivity
Then surely (without being a rubber stamper)
I should say something kind. For creativity
That’s only doom and gloom can be a damper
And make us want to clasp our knees and rock.
So I’ll reframe these features that I mock.

XVI

O weave supreme, a glorious tapestry
Of cultivated strands, metallic weft,
Frozen by gel, embalmed through chemistry,
Each follicle effulgent: right and left
Can marvel at the stylist’s topiary,
That threaded so few hairs into such heft.
Bald Opportunity is most dismayed
To see his single hair in that blond braid.

XVII

Filigreed fleece: an auric testimonial
To everything he’s hungered for since birth;
A cover for his failures (matrimonial,
Fiscal, moral, fiduciary). It’s worth
In sleek and contoured moldings oxygonial
That clasp his naked dome more than the mirth
That falls upon its lustrous sward like dew
And polishes his barefaced self anew.

XVIII

And what about those gestures so balletic?
The forefinger and thumb (perverted mudra)
Bespeaking . . . what? Precision? Truth emetic?
The prissy cynicism of his shudra,
That highlights how easily the bathetic
Can hide the fact that an almighty budra
Is going to be levied on your ass?
Don’t be confused by postures that look crass.

XIX

O brazen libertine, whose farouche moue
Puckers with such fastidious disdain.
Not even Blanche DuBois could swoon and stew
In such “melodramatic diva” vein.
Carnival barker, breathy ingénue,
Both Susan Alexander and Charles Kane:
Not to be rude or boorishly ungallant,
I must say: Leave the stage; you have no talent.

XX

What honeyed words shall we say of Melania?
That she’s a sylph in bondage to Silenus?
Or like the accursed fairy queen Titania
Enamored of an ass? A marbled Venus
Carved by jealous Pygmalion? An ania
To a flame? The sheath that covers up his penis
And offers him the semblance of propriety
To make sure it’s not unmasked in society?

XXI

Observing her pinched features, fixed and strained,
You sense that something has gone wrong. As if
What, years ago, she bargained for has drained
The joy from her. And like a living GIF
She’s trapped in the same motions; every pained,
Thin smile; her slender body taut and stiff:
All seem to show she knows and fears her beau
Will one day say, “You’re fired,” and she’ll go.

XXII

Where is the joshing, where the amorous ease,
The warmth that comes from knowing that your guy
Has reached the top? I wonder, did he squeeze
Her hand that first night, look her in the eye,
And say that he was sorry for the sleaze,
But that man was no more? That he would try
To be someone of whom she could be proud,
With whom she could stand resolute, unbowed?

XXIII

Yet there she is, alone, untouched, ignored,
Or walks behind him as he strides ahead;
Locked in her ornate cage, depressed and bored
Out of her skull; with each day filled with dread
At what he’ll say or do next. Her reward
For staying with him’s ultimately led
To being First Lady and the people’s house,
And yet she wakes still married to a louse.

XXIV

Unlike the elder children, with their shrewd
Accommodations to the Chief, their sire,
She and her son look haunted and subdued.
What does she know, what has she seen transpire
Within those marbled walls? Did she conclude
That it was best to shrink back and retire
Rather than be herself and thereby cross
The man she once loved, who is now her boss?

XXV

Has she awoken in the dark of night
And wandered to the living room to find
His fleshy face bleached by the cellphone’s light
Or staring at the TV screens? Do kind
Hands settle on his shoulders: “It’s not right,”
She says, “they’re messing with your mind.
Let them alone and come to bed, my sweet.
It doesn’t matter. You’ve no need to tweet”?

XXVI

Does he reply, “You’ll never understand.
I cannot let them have the final word.
I’ve never lost. I always win. Command
And others act—that’s me. No little turd
With half a brain will beat me. I demand
Complete respect”? And, undeterred
(While she retreats, knowing she’s tried her best),
Do his two stubby fingers do the rest?

XXVII

So much for being nice! I must admit
I find it hard to separate the man
From that office in which he sits. The shit
Is flying but has not yet hit the fan,
And so we wade through ordure. Piles of it:
A vast lake from Orlando to Spokane.
And every movement, statement, and mishap
Bears undisputed vestiges of crap.

XXVIII

So, no, I won’t go high when they go low.
(Apologies, Michelle!) What sorts of scold
Would Swift or Joseph Heller or Thiong’o
Be if they meekly did as they were told
By those in power? When the ill winds blow
You open up your cheeks and blast, tenfold,
Ripostes both sobering and pedagogical,
Or, failing that, overtly scatological.

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