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