Where are the songs of Spring? (You might well ask.)
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush.
The darling bud’s not ready for the task
The lark ascending but a darkling thrush.
The smell of fear’s cloaked by facial mask,
And hectic cheeks rosy with flu’s first blush:
We raise a cry, given our president,
“Now is the winter of our discontent.”
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: I counsel, “Unpack your brass knuckles.”
For something quite explosive has begun
And there’ll be street-fighting before it’s done.
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 ululatory, spasmodic,
Dyspeptic groan at the malignant tumor
That’s formed within the body politic,
And hasn’t been excised yet. Sick, O sick!
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!
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.
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.
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?
I venture not. Yet mediocrities
(Like Major Major) need a sinecure.
They, too, seek graft and shun indemnities!
How else will cocky layabouts ensure
That others do the work so they can squeeze
Into their schedule one more victory tour?
It’s fun to spend one’s time before adoring
Crowds chanting your name. All the rest is boring!
This man, therefore, is not an aberration.
He seems that way because we have forgot
How much the past reveals the separation
Of truth from how we dream we were: 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.
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?
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.
It turned out that the “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.
The trouble is he’s not a merry pranker
Who yearns to punk and make his trifling plays.
He thrives on turmoil, enmity, and rancor,
Thrills in deflection, falsehood, and malaise.
In English parlance, he’s a frigging 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.
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.
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 nice. For expressivity
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.
O weave supreme, a glorious filagree
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.
Upholstered fleece: an auric monument
To everything he’s hungered for since birth;
A cover for his failures (youth misspent,
Failed marriages, the bankruptcies). It’s worth
In sleek and contoured moldings that augment
His dome is much more to him than the mirth
That falls upon its lustrous sward like dew
And polishes his barefaced self anew.
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.
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 ostentatiously ungallant,
I must say, “Thumbs down; you have got no talent.”
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?
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.
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?
Yet there she is, untouched and unadored,
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 accord
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.
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?
Has she awoken in the dark of night
And wandered to the living room to find
His jowly mien wan in 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 merely messing with your mind.
Let them alone and come to bed, my sweet.
It doesn’t matter. You’ve no need to tweet”?
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”? So, by reason unstirred,
(While she retreats, knowing she’s tried her best),
Do his two stubby fingers do the rest?
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.
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.