Poetry

December 10, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Victoria Pickering photo

 

By

David Lohrey

 

 

 

Triumph of the Will

 

 

The age of Trump and I don’t mean seventy.

I’m speaking of our time, our sad era, and I don’t mean aura,

although they say it is black, a dark presence.

 

Democracies don’t survive men who don’t need money.

What’s an oligarch, after all, but a democrat with dough?

Boohoo. The country’s going down the drain.

 

Yes, that was me you heard. I often sing to myself. I talk

to myself, too. I work up little speeches on the principles of

Horace. I practice my acceptance speeches.

 

I exhort the troops. I declare myself available to the people.

I resign. I throw in the towel. I declare war. I accept prizes.

Cicero, from my point of view, was the man.

 

People are starving for the truth.

Trump talked trash for two years but now promises to deliver.

Let’s call him the garbage man who makes deliveries.

 

He dumps it all directly on your lawn, front and back.

Good thing your flag is flying at half-mast.

Someone shot a cop last night and the killer is on the loose.

 

Demosthenes doesn’t hold a candle. Cicero and those other Romans,

including the historians Sallust and Tacitus, knew a thing or two. One

thing clear to them but not to him was the importance of dangerous women.

 

This was what made the Romans so scary. We know it’s true; the Greeks

were naïve. Treachery and intrigue ruled the roost – what fun! Juicy parts

for the likes of Glen Close and Sharon Stone: poisoned baths and whipped backsides.

 

The orators were putting their lives on the line for a cause. Public pronouncements

could be caustic. Talk about the deplorables… There were verbal assassination plots.

There were epic put-downs: ridicule and denunciations.

 

The despairing come together. In America, Christians celebrate wealth.

A theology of good fortune, a belief system based on bank accounts. Let them be. Why shouldn’t the rich be happy?

Leave misery to the poor. That’s Trump’s idea.

 

Trump towers over the rest of us. He went to Wharton. He and his kids

have degrees in business. They can use a calculator. Calculation is one skill he’ll need.

I for one recommend reading “The Prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli.

 

The churches should charge for parking. Let them demand entrance fees:

VIP discounts, the wealthy pay nothing; that’s fair. You have to have big bucks

to worship at the church of eternal bliss.

 

Why would a successful businessman want his sons and daughters in trade?

Our business class produces clerks and bondsmen only; if not from the rich,

where are our artists to come; who else can afford Manhattan rents?

 

He says bravo when he looks at himself in the mirror. Why not live like there’s no tomorrow?

Then Trump thinks, “fuck that.” I did it all myself. Why be nice? The poor lack stamina.

We’re the opposite of resentful; we’re grateful. I’m thankful, God. Thank you.

 

He’s set for life. The God here doesn’t believe in sharing; it’s a religion of hoarders.

Membership’s limited to the greedy, deliberately. Fuck the needy. They can go to hell.

We’ll give them financial aid to get there faster; there they can practice affirmative action.

 

John Adams our Founding Father wanted his kids to write poetry.

I urge Trump to call his children together. If not writers, then anthropologists.

Someone in this country has to study ancient languages.

 

When the bombing starts his artistic son can suggest we not bomb ancient sites, or

capital cities. An artistic education might come in handy. With Presidents this low,

we depend on children to write their epithets.

 

Just read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. He loved the Romans. Lincoln did, too.

In America today, people obsess over the right to bear arms; they want to carry concealed

weapons. Of greater power is one’s tongue. A golden voice or a hidden pistol?

 

Hell is an equal opportunity employer. Hallelujah. We’d prefer, it seems, to put a cap in our opponent’s ass.

We’ll know America is back when people once again value the power of words and the right to speak.

 

 

 

 

 

POTUS Interruptus

 

 

Donald J. Trump is often very good. What he is great at is being Donald –

the only one we will ever have. When he dies, any outpouring of affection

will come about because the American people feel he remains in some

indefinable way close to them, one of a kind but one of their own – a regular

guy who at heart just wants to be rich.

 

It’s easier to arrange an interview with the American POTUS

than it is with Tom Cruise. Is it true that he once slept with Arty Shaw?

Did he actually ghostwrite James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake?

Some believe so. In 2023, Trump just turned up grinning, almost swaggering,

at his private club. We shook hands. He declared that Melania was pregnant.

 

Much as I find The Art of the Deal entirely uninvolving and sometimes

close to obscene, the minute I met him, the minute I was alone in a room with

the Donald, I came unglued. All along, what we were getting wasn’t just

this or that great or perhaps even obnoxious tweet, but an idea of the President

himself: his charm, his boldness, his humor, and his desperation.

 

Trump has a striking talent for shaping luck or forcing chance, and for exploiting

his better half:  there’s Ivana, his first wife, co-author Tony Schwartz, then VP

Pence, and his special assistant Kellyanne Conway. On one hand, he’s the nerveless

chess master; on the other, a man crippled by doubt, cocky but insecure, a man elated

by his personal rapport with foreign leaders.

 

The interview goes well. We start off in the penthouse at Trump Tower

but say our final goodbye at Grand Central Station where the former President’s

driver drops me.  The now-empty Times Building down the street prominently

displays an enormous for sale sign. My conclusion is this: If Trump smoked

Gauloises and drank white wine, the high minded would fully embrace him.

 

Studying the Donald has been a lot like doing a Ph.D. on the origins of Jell-O.

Americans came to see his White House as little more than a Potemkin village.

It’s impossible to imagine someone like Trump giving the media anything

like this kind of open access – but then, of course, there is no one quite like him.

The Donald never did win the Nobel Prize for carpet bombing North Korea.

 

To whom was Jackie referring when she spoke of the White House dogs?

We’ve all had our flirtations with celebrity. Trump generally comes across

like a petulant bully, pure will and a fantastic show-off. What more is there to say?

What else is there to disclose? His taxes? Truth is, you could go as mad as a pampered

real estate mogul from Queens just trying to sift through the baggage.

 

 

I’m not sure how seriously Trump wants to be taken. In 2022, the former

President was in Los Angeles pretending to star in a picture that isn’t

going to be made, adapted from a memoir he is certain never to finish,

sure to be called ‘You’re Fired: the Rise of Donald J. Trump’. It is said

to have sold for twice the amount of President Obama’s.

 

Better yet, think of casting the President in Hello Donald! He looks a lot

like Carol Channing. The first time we met he’d just come back from Moscow.

And then there were those lingering rumors of his affair with Kanye West.

I keep thinking: is this the kind of shit Trump himself would ever want to sit through?

Wouldn’t he have preferred Kardashian? Isn’t he supposed to be into women?

 

I find myself wondering, as we do with most postmodern politicians

(Hillary Clinton, for example): is this good because it’s good Trump,

or is it good by any standards? Or is Trump essentially, now, just imitating

his own brand, because that’s what one does? Think of Madonna. Think of

Trump Vodka. Watching Trump selling himself to the world is depressing.

 

My part of this interview for the New Yorker consists almost entirely of me grilling

him on Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Hassan Rouhani, and of him trying to plug

the ‘ideas’ behind The Art of the Deal, Part II. The days of interviews full of

sex clubs and paternity suits are over. To me, he just sounds like any other President

with products to hawk. Obama’s signature line of chocolate chip cookies stands out.

 

But, his looks remain largely unchanged: his body still has the shape of an enlarged

marshmallow; with that wig, equally pillow-y, he resembles a masquerade of times

gone by. Trump looks like an ageing hermaphrodite, a Liberace, or a 1970s’ female

impersonator. How much the former President is really here at all remains to be seen.

His presidential library stands empty.

 

But he is not in prison. He lives in a house three times the size of the White House.

So what if his daughter and son-in-law had to flee the country? He finally built

a tower near the Kremlin. He sold Detroit to China. When Bill died, Hillary fell apart.

The Donald made it to the end of his first term and then Romney took over. When he

ran in 2012, 47% were on public rolls; now it’s closer to 58. The country is bankrupt.

 

 

 

 

 

David Lohrey

David Lohrey is from Memphis, and now lives in Tokyo. He graduated from UC Berkeley. Internationally, his poetry can be found in Otoliths, Stony Thursday Anthology, Sentinel Quarterly, and Buckshot Magazine. In the US, recent poems have appeared in Poetry Circle, FRiGG, Obsidian, and Apogee Journal. His fiction can be read in Crack the Spine, Dodging the Rain, Literally Stories, and The Broke Bohemian. David’s The Other Is Oneself, a study of 20th century literature, was published last year, while his first collection of poetry, Machiavelli’s Backyard, was released in August. He is a member of the Sudden Denouement Collective. 

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