Conventional Poetry: These five poems about the Republican National Convention were written for broadcast on National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered" during the week of August 30-September 3, 2004
Sing, O Muse, your most heroic Ditty:
Republicans convene in New York City,
Where we shall see kick off their fall Campaign
Giuliani, Schwarzenegger and McCain.
All hail th’Mod’rates of the G.O.P. —
For surely there are many more than three —
Who speak, for now, with but a single voice
That’s tolerant, unthreatening — and pro-Choice!
But though Republicans are everywhere,
We can’t avoid the ones who aren’t there.
You won’t hear nam’d — for who’d be such a Churl? —
Falwell, Robertson, Wolfowitz or Perle.
Meanwhile, protesting in the open Air,
Are lots of Democrats who aren’t there.
Though scruffy, they’re no Yippies come again,
McGovern, Fonda or the Weathermen.
Such ghostly Presences it’s Etiquette
On both Sides — for this week — to just forget.
The war drags on, what should we do?
The party leaders turn to you:
With eloquence as only can he
Th’appeal comes down from Giuliani
And John McCain: Support George Bush!
And what will John Doe answer?
I know there’s lots who’d think it fun
If they could clean up Washington,
But I’m with Fox’s program to
Redecorate in Malibu.
I’m frightened of the Terror War,
But Fear Factor’s on Channel 4.
The 9/11 victims I
Admire, but can’t miss CSI;
We’re all agreed with no objection
It will be crucial, this election.
Historic contest though it be,
Hey! Football’s back on ABC!"
The nets away, the speech of Rudy
Might just as well be Howdy Doody —
That’s why they’re belting on C-SPAN
The anthem of the show-biz clan
(There is no business like it? Hell!
The G.O.P.’s now "S.N.L."!).
Mom and Pop Operation
O there’s really quite an aura
About George Bush’s Laura,
Something innocent, honest and true.
And New York, that new Gomorrah,
Falls down prostrate now before a
Lovely goddess dress’d in robin’s-egg blue.
There’s no hint in George’s Laura
Of a Venus or Pandora,
Just the virgin of a Fra Angelico.
From Baghdad to Tora Bora
Brave men will all adore a
Woman who’s possessed of such a glow.
Vote for George then to restore a
Sense of honor to the fora
Of government where policy is made,
But also his señora,
Archetypal mother Laura,
Whose smile alone will certainly persuade.
Yet we also can’t ignore a
Hint that just behind the door a
Certain someone waits with belt off for the bad
Who resist the charms of Laura
And do deeds we all abhor. A
Man like AH-NOLD — who’s the archetypal Dad.
Giving it the Hard Zell
"I have knocked on the door of this man’s soul
And found somebody home."
So the Senator spoke in his keynote role —
And the rhythm of a poem.
For a moment his prose conventional
Dropp’d its veil for us to see
How amidst so much high rhetorical
Lurk’d a line of poetry
Like a soul itself in its secret place
Beneath the words from stock.
Like the soul it will seek a wider space
And await the poet’s knock.
And, like the poem, the soul is seldom seen
Where politicians play —
No animal, vegetable or machine
So lacking soul as they.
And it's this in the age of the focus group
That we fear, though may not know
How much we fear: that we’re made the dupe
Of the "spinner’s" medicine show.
So tonight as the President takes the floor
To make his scripted cry,
We’ll strain with hope to hear upon that door
That knock — and his reply.
Captain America and the World of Tomorrow
In Roman times, prospective consuls would
Go down to some Plebeian neighborhood
And show the scars they’d gotten in the war,
And smile and promise cheap bread theretofore.
Such Condescension, though a clear charade
Of popular control, did not degrade,
But now our candidates for office must
Spend all their time eating Plebeian dust.
It’s not enough to pledge easy solutions,
You’ve got to share the common folks’ illusions.
The chief of these, the Brighter Future, is
What gives our party gatherings their fizz.
All optimists, we cling to that "right track"
And cry, with Bush, "Nothing will hold us back."
The way to a "safer world" must run on rails
For Leadership, in prospect, never fails.
Yet why should we repine the campaign long
At what the Romans knew kept countries strong?
Come November we’ll know just what to do
In choosing who’s the fitter of these two.
For sure that candidate has got to go
Who drops the mask and lets his Nuance show.