In olden days, a writer with pretension
To voice his people’s hopes in smooth hexameter,
Would make a case for poetic ascension
By laying down an ode or epigrammata,
Before composing something with dimension
For fear he’d be exposed as a rank amateur.
Why show you’re just another two-bit schemer
And what’s more do it in ottava rima?
But there’s no time for artistic probation:
The game’s afoot, time ripe, the need is now.
The fate of the Republic’s our vexation:
Whether we last through these four years, and how.
When a sham ignoramus runs the nation,
Who cares if I’m sufficiently high-brow
To catch the wretched agon of the times
Successfully in Tasso’s piquant rhymes?
Lord Byron knew the mixture well: Don Juan
Incorporates the seemly and the seamy.
And per the era, I venture a new one
Should be both sanctimonious and steamy.
To tenderize the shock of thinking who won
And help us chew, then somewhat tart and creamy
Must be my verse: to catch the zeitgeist’s mood
Demands the euphuistic and the crude.
It’s usual in this type of composition
To issue forth a ringing invocation:
A call to arms, a plea for a commission
To bind the wounds; locate a lofty station
From which to proffer a worthy petition
Or lift the veil upon a desecration.
I need a spot where I can coalesce
Each bilious outflow in one putrid mess.
O soft Gowanus: issue forth your scents
To cleanse my verse; your waters rank and deep
Diffuse my acrid spewing; in your dense
Alembic boil each noxious phrasing, steep
Within your nacreous current each offense,
And turn from dross to gold this steaming heap
That like compost builds life. Is it obscene
To call on you, my flush-full Hippocrene?
Where are you KENTILE sign, whose lambent beams
Once shone upon the sludge-filled sites below?
Where are the slicks you lit, the oiltar seams,
The bodies swaying in the undertow
Of the canal? Bless my cloacal memes,
Which rise above South Brooklyn’s dirty glow,
All you who contemplate tranquility
When stuck in traffic on the BQE.
Muse, cross the bridges: Newark’s meadows sweet,
Old Cleveland’s groves, the springs of Buffalo,
Descant upon the passing of Main Street,
Now empty, once full not so long ago.
Detroit shall echo, Gary shall repeat
That what was once created is no mo’:
For why spend time in genuine creation
When wealth is made through idle speculation?
Look! How we whisper prayers, levers yank,
And buttons push (the gamblers’ Vitus’ dance);
Or rub the lotto genie and so bank
Our futures on the one-in-a-million chance!
Deposits going south, stocks in the tank,
Our houses worthless. And yet, in a trance,
We reckon if we placed just one more bet
We’d magically dissolve our unpaid debt.
Speak, Prophet, let each narcissistic byte
Decode the bibble-babble of this age.
Dismantle every cable droid, indict
Each billion-dollar suit, and turn your rage
Upon the posing proxies that each night
Pour forth the toxic gas that drives the gauge
That measures book advances, honoraria,
And gobs of cash spat forth in faux hysteria.
Descry, O Instant Messenger, the stores
And houses boarded up, the vacant lots
And men who cluster at the corner, scores
To settle or trace up arms, the easy shots
That have no consequence—for all the doors
Have long since been foreclosed on. Join the dots,
You gamers, for the people are in hock
For taking and not taking enough stock.
Direct your gaze toward the gilded suite
Within the Tower; settling on the sofa,
Chew over how the bully deigns to meet
Each sycophantic leech and fawning gopher,
How much he smirks as on their knees they bleat
For work, pretending he is not a loafer.
As long as they’re on good terms with the bruiser,
They think that he won’t shame them as a loser.
A puffed-up peacock, scabrous popinjay,
Falstaff without the grace or sack or wit,
A loathsome skeev, a spawn of Rabelais,
A thin-skinned and vainglorious hypocrite,
Is the Commander of the USA.
Revisit that when next you take a shit.
Let tumble from your bowels into the pan
Quite what you think about this wretched man.
“But wait!” I hear you say, “he’s now our chief,
And sixty million folks can’t be mistaken.
We needed change, and Hillary’s a thief,
And now the ruling classes are left shaken,
Because of their presumption. All your beef
Is mere sour grapes. And soon you will awaken
In a U.S. of A. that’s rightly ours,
In which we’ll wield full presidential powers.”
My answer to these claims of right is “No.”
No to accepting that this harlequin
Has any right to strut and primp and crow.
I see no cause to offer him my chin
To punch. This baldfaced Braggadocio
Will not go underided. If I sin
It would be in not being hard enough
Upon the flaunting, pompous piece of fluff.
“Good riddance to Obama!” comes the cry,
“The Muslim, godless stooge, the Communist,
The enemy within, the Kenyan spy,
The interloping, false flag terrorist,
With his transgendered wife!” A desperate try
To stigmatize a couple who’ll be missed.
Your fears were never real, but fever dreams:
Unlike your man; for he is as he seems.
What standards the Obamas had to meet!
They couldn’t be angry, browbeat or defame,
Or marry twice or thrice. They couldn’t tweet
Insults or obloquy, affront or shame.
Their kids had to be kind and smart and sweet,
Michelle compassionate and without blame:
They always had to leave a good impression
And not commit a solitary transgression.
And now we are confronted with this Nero
Who’ll fiddle as the planet burns: his pride
And vanity unmatched; the perfect hero
For this land, where all flagrancy’s denied,
Compunction shunned, and where a total zero
Can rationalize all torture, and deride
As quisling crybabies those who attempt
To offer another vision. What contempt!
Is it not weird he has no hinterland?
No book or film or play that moved his soul,
No cultural lodestars, neither small nor grand,
That left him vulnerable or made him whole?
It seems that all is surface (and it’s tanned),
A world of flash and shimmer, without toll:
No weight of loss or sorrow or regret.
Good Lord, he doesn’t even have a pet!
What will he do when he is called to grieve
When natural disaster strikes the nation?
One-forty characters will not relieve
The pain of lives destroyed; nor adoration,
Disdain, or ridicule help us believe
The leader knows the sting of deprivation.
When hugs need to be given, will he reel?
Or, arms extended, will he cop a feel?
More worryingly still, when terror hits,
As it most surely will, will he react
Judiciously, advisedly? Or blitz
A city, region, country when attacked
To prove his manliness? Or blow to bits
Each treaty, bloc, agreement, and compact:
Provide the terrorists with all they need
To fill the beds once more at Walter Reed?
Perhaps the Prez will be as disengaged
As George Bush was in his first months: content
To go on victory tours and grow enraged
At SNL, while trying to foment
Some phony crisis so he’s not upstaged
By the dull busyness of government.
He’ll sit counting his future bucks and cents
And hand over the Executive to Pence.
The danger is he’ll think he knows it all:
Filling the airwaves with his contradictions.
There’ll be perpetual conflict, and in thrall
To all the fires he sets and all the fictions,
Distracted by the thrill of daily brawl,
We’ll spend our outrage feeding our addictions.
Meanwhile the Congress will pass legislation
To end the federal administration.
Of course, one hopes that the judicial branch
Will act to halt congressional overreach;
That genuine conservatives will blanche
At efforts to undermine freedoms of speech,
Assembly, privacy; will salve or stanch
The wounds inflicted; or they’ll block the breach
Made in the wall dividing church and state,
And protect the defenseless against hate.
One might repose some hope, if just a flicker,
That senators will act with gravitas,
And seek out common ground to act (don’t snicker!).
If not, then frankly it might come to pass
That Jefferson’s Republic (here’s the kicker),
Will fold before this petulant jackass:
And all that will be left will be amurcous
Game shows of unrelenting bread and circus.
Yet what about the notion that the chump
Will (at last!) shake things up, and, by upending,
Return some power to the people, pump
The economy with infrastructure spending,
And catapult us from this so-called slump
Into a future glory never-ending?
Of course, he might—except that he’s abstaining
From every promise that he made campaigning.
What makes this flagrant treachery more galling
Is how he savors playing us for fools.
Beyond his bombast, tantrums, and name-calling
His goal seems only to dispense with rules
To allow infractions even more appalling.
It’s all too clear that he considers mules
The folks who voted for him, suckers all,
Stick figures scrawled upon his bullshit Wall.
The coal and steel jobs are not coming back,
Obamacare’s repeal has no replacement;
The Wall will not be built, and every claque
Is lining up for patronage. Abasement
Will be complete when every stooge and hack
Is settled into every job and space meant
For those who care for their agency’s mission,
Instead of beating it into submission.
So now we wait to see what fate will show.
The USA has been through worse—got through
The Civil War, slaveholding, the Alamo,
Pearl Harbor, My Lai, Watergate; and grew
Following 9/11. Even so
That better days await might not be true:
Reliant on exclusion and amnesia,
Dispensed through a collective anesthesia.
Of course, I hope that we are proven wrong,
And suddenly he is magnanimous:
Reforms the prisons, builds the roads, makes strong
The economy (and does it without fuss),
Returns power to where it should belong,
While not throwing the weak under the bus,
And, while admitting that he can be crude,
Ensures that only rich people are screwed.
So now we wait for the Inauguration,
Our senses frayed, and hearts and souls a-flutter,
What will he say to calm a frazzled nation?
What soaring rhetoric will this man utter?
Will he, at last, ascend to meet the station
To which he aspired, or will he simply mutter
A few pat phrases from the autocue
Before attacking his latest bugaboo?
What will it be? Four years of garbled tweets,
Of grievance, petulance, dissimulation?
Four years of protest marches in the streets,
Met each night with a pettish lucubration?
Of dirt (financial and between the sheets),
Corruption, filth, and misappropriation;
Or something else? Distinction or disgrace?
We’ll find out soon enough; so, watch this space.