Pence, Trump, Comey, Mueller, Capitalism — The Limericks

This is the first series of the limerick project—which began in May 2017 with Pence, Trump and Comey. This series focuses on injustice and other illnesses, as well as on poetry (and Trump). Later series: Part II (Injustice, Trump, Illness, Poetry): July 2 to August 12, 2017; Part III (Animals, Capitalism, the News, First Impressions), August 13 to September 3; and Part IV (No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals): September 4 to . . . ? And check out various cousins: Oh, say, can you see . . . ; The only show left in town; or Despondent White House Criminals Should Look Up.

Far below is a brief explanation of what and how this series is or first was and of how and why it has been evolving. It may be noted that the project involves, inter alia, exploring the limits of (or deforming?) the limerick form.

Epigraph from Thomas Hardy, “Christmas: 1924”:

‘Peace upon earth!’ was said. We sing it,
And pay a million priests to bring it.
After two thousand years of mass
We’ve got as far as poison-gas.

Limerick 47

A child from whom love is withheld,

To relations rougher is compelled.

Inveighing, gainsaying, affraying,

By conflict blood warmed, foul playing.

And the emptiness staying, the pain not expelled.


I confess, this limerick was “inspired” by thoughts of the Chief Tweet.



Can the reason be the specter of the still to come,

And thus I complete tasks formerly half done?

Like other fellow retirees—

No obligations; no hours free.

That stubborn weed—time—enjoys the sun.




If a system can elect a President incompetent and unstable,

Is the system for electronic times no longer suitable?

Or are we again learning—flaws fundamental—

Celebrated rights and checks less legal than financial,

With our public resources ever enriching the venal

And public-trust-worthy chiefs and lawgivers more rare than exceptional?


§ In a short Zeteo essay—Trump, de Tocqueville, Democracy, Materialism—published in the run-up to the devastating election, I explored what might be called de Tocqueville’s corner of this topic. A two-paragraph extract follows—the first graph is from De la Démocratie en Amérique (Democracy in America); the second mixes in some of my own commentary.

“[T]he natural propensities of democracy induce the people to keep from power its most distinguished citizens, and these individuals are no less apt to distance themselves from political careers, in which it is almost impossible to retain one’s independence or to advance without degrading oneself. . . . [Instead] it frequently happens that a man does not undertake to direct the fortune of the State until he has discovered his incompetence to conduct his own affairs. . . . In the United States, I am not sure that the people would choose men of superior abilities who might seek public office, but it is certain that men of this description do not come forward.”

De Tocqueville admits one exception to this rule: times of crisis. Extraordinary virtues arise “from the very imminence of the dangers. . . . [G]enius no longer abstains from presenting itself in the arena; and the people, alarmed by the perils of its situation, briefly forgets its envious passions.” De Tocqueville, who visited the United States during one of its populist moments, the era of Jacksonian Democracy, seems to have been looking back fondly at the countries’ Founding Fathers, people such as Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and (as legislators and lobbyists) Adams and Madison. But his sentences also speak clairvoyantly—about how immanent civil war brought to the Presidency Abraham Lincoln (and made of Lincoln a strong leader), and similarly with the Depression and Franklin Roosevelt.

I also continue to recommend William Hogeland’s Founding Finance: How Debt, Speculation, Foreclosures, Protests, and Crackdowns Made Us a Nation (University of Texas Press, 2012). From Chapter 7, “It’s Hamilton’s America . . . We Just Live in It”:

People who call Hamilton smart are understating the case. The whiskey tax was inspired, . . . And all of its mechanisms served the old [Robert] Morris purpose of “opening the purses of the people”: moving widely scattered wealth from the mass of ordinary people upward, to the few bondholders, cementing high finance to national government projects. The tax funded 6 percent tax-free interest in gold and silver for the bondholders. Many of them were the same industrial distillers, commercial farmers, absentee landlords, and merchant lenders whose enterprises directly benefited from the tax as well.



Not Freud’s sex but “Cold, hunger and the shame of poverty

Are more likely to affect one’s psychology.”

 So Charlie Chaplin once wrote,

And even the rich sometimes know

How hunger’s gray . . . one good meal wipes away.


§ Is this limerick making two long (too long?) bridges—between the culinary wealth of France, the millions starving in Africa, and Chaplin’s wonderful My Autobiography, which I am reading in lieu of the news? As regards the African famine, see Jackson Diehl, No one is paying attention to the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. As regards sex, Chaplin writes: “Like Balzac, who believed that a night of sex meant the loss of a good page of his novel, so I believed it meant the loss of a good day’s work at the studio.”



In Washington, Democrats, Republicans, embroiled;

In southern France, fresh artichokes, roast garlic, olive oil.

Grabbing, oppressing, hiding, impeaching;

Cherry pudding, cheese, eggplant and peaches.

A hatred of living; the fruit of the Earth unspoiled.


§ With special thanks to Mon Bistrot à Moi, son clafoutis et ses artichauts à la barigoule. But, sadly, this Lyon restaurant has—in the wake of this limerick?—gone out of business.



For my son, at 16, everything seems possible.

Life (with news) has taught me obstacles.

With pirates drunken we’re at sea.

To share in the plunder—lies, loyalty.

Exc’lence a charade; my son smiles at the carnival.




Working out (Holmes Place, Geneva), pen drawing in dark with eyes covered, by William Eaton, 23 June 2017Why do we care that so many of our colleagues—

And not only humans—by Kochs’ heels are being crushed—

Without solidarity—I think of you less than me?

Yet still feel the greatness in our being able to be

Touched by suffering or smiling—as if “they” were “we.”


§ News: A friend e-mails me from the US: “You are so lucky to be away from our news. I can’t bear to hear what they want to do to healthcare. It will get worse.” (And again I have departed from the limerick form, as, in Switzerland, one might step down from a path to rinse one’s face in a stream.)



Forgetful of death we may indeed relax,

I might pause in any city, believe any fact;

Yet one whisper from the mortician

And everything becomes a question.

Time is our truth—terrible and steadfast.


§ Alternative ending: With time we can only fight to the last



Addled by the heat they had a dream

Arms becoming bigger than the trees

Slowly backwards, they turned the Earth

Seeking an ecological, healthy rebirth.

In olden times cooler—and technology free?


§ News: Canicule (heat wave) in France; Phoenix, Arizona too hot for planes to take off.



Wherein Mitch McConnell trashes simple rules of decent limericking as well as some flickering hopes that the US government might care (a bit) for the less fortunate or less venal.

“We know your health care sucks.

Imagine, then, your good luck.

We’ll care for you much less

While our own taxes we depress.

You can be sicker, we can be richer.

The Indians were just the first to be crushed.”


News: What’s in the Senate’s secret Obamacare repeal bill: “The Senate is on the verge of unveiling a sweeping Obamacare repeal bill that would end Medicaid as an open-ended entitlement, roll back health insurance subsidies and strike multiple taxes from the Affordable Care Act.”



By aggressors ruthless, results unexpected

The lives of many countries have been deflected

From Russia we’ve been sent a feckless leader

As Germans once east sent comrade Vladímir

Extraordinary actions—sequelae long regretted?


§ Sources: New York Times opinion piece: Was Lenin a German Agent? by Sean Mcmeekin and What the Russian Revolution Can Teach Us About Trump by Ivan Kratsev. From the latter:

In the way Germany saw the Bolsheviks as instruments for achieving German war aims, Lenin saw Germany as an instrument for achieving his revolution. Something similar is probably true for Mr. Trump. . . . In an atmosphere of radical political polarization, leaders are trusted not for who they are but for who their enemies are. And in the eyes of many Republicans, President Trump may have the wrong character but he has the right enemies.

The story of 1917 may be instructive for President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin as well. Germany’s strategy of helping the revolutionary forces in Russia to achieve German geopolitical goals happened to have an unhappy ending: Revolution in Russia removed the country from World War I, but it spread revolutionary fever all over Europe — and even brought civil war to Germany. Mr. Putin’s Russia faces a similar risk. A recent report by a Kremlin-friendly think tank devoted to the rise of technological populism suggests that the populist wave in vogue throughout Western democracies could soon reach Russia — and become a serious threat to the country’s political order during the next electoral cycle.



Lyon-Plage à 37,0 °C (#2), drawing by William Eaton, pen and crayons, 22 June 2017An atheist’s life is no longer for me

Since S/He has reserved hôtel with piscine

For lyonnaise global sweating

(Far from Washington’s blood-letting)

Dommage que les Socialistes got creamed


§ Les nouvelles : Le PS subit « une déroute sans appel » . After the June 18 elections, the French Socialist Party had only 30 seats in the National Assembly, down from their previous 283! Meanwhile a heat wave has the temperature in much of France, Lyon included, close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Such heat waves, almost unknown twenty years and more ago, have become rather regular summer occurrences, presumably on account of homo sapiens sapiens increasing both the amount of carbon-containing gases in the upper atmosphere and the amounts of tiny particles in the lower atmosphere. Succinct explanation grâce à



Lufthansa offers opportunities marvelous

To feel companies making robots of all of us.

Callousness, systems and rules

Hogtie both customers and crews.

We’re not just patsies or ciphers—we’re superfluous!




Was the ruling in Citizens United

To illusions a blow, or an end of the fight

For some kind of democracy,

For some justice and equality,

For a fair share of this rich country plundered?




What matters is loyalty, not talent, we know,

And Trump the limits poignantly shows.

Of children and employees

It’s loyalty, loyalty,

Until under the next bus they’re thrown.


§ News: Trump takes a Twitter swipe at deputy attorney general, a key figure in Russia probe



Down the avenues they flow, seeking some station.

Each in her bubble, his aggregation.

Thoughts move their minds;

They do not ask why.

Market share, you know, is a war of attrition.


§ News: Around 5 p.m. was riding my bicycle up New York’s Park Avenue, as many office workers, expensively suited and not, were making their way to Grand Central Station.



While we with terrorists have become obsessed

Drug companies’ drugs keep fouling our nest.

Alien threats hide inner distress:

62,000 opioid deaths

And the venal’s dependence on people to oppress.


§ NewsDrug Deaths in America Are Rising Faster Than Ever; Ohio Sues Drug Makers, Saying They Aided Opioid Epidemic) From the latter of these two New York Times stories:

The drugs were once used primarily for acute, or short-term pain, but over the last two decades, doctors have increasingly prescribed them to treat chronic pain, giving them to patients for months or years at a stretch. Drug makers promoted that change [Ohio is charging], spending “millions of dollars on promotional activities and materials that falsely deny or trivialize the risks of opioids while overstating the benefits”. . . . By 2012, the suit says, opioid prescriptions in Ohio equaled 68 pills a year for every resident of the state, including children. Defendants in the case include Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Allergan and others.

Back in 2012 it was reported that 100 million Americans have chronic pain. This is, among other things, a reminder that life is ever a struggle.



Three heads reduced to black, from crayon drawing by William Eaton, 2017On the thirteenth of June, in twenty seventeen

In the Senate, the people and justice were demeaned

And a jury considered celebrity aggressions

And a CEO was let go for more indiscretions.

I submitted my estimated taxes

As before in twenty sixteen.


§ NewsJeff Sessions’s testimony raises more questions than it answers; Cosby trial Day 7: Still no verdict after full day of deliberations; Uber CEO to Take Leave, Have Diminished Role After Scandals



On our leaky life rafts, steadfast they endure.

And what of such people—the honest and demure?

“But my life is worth . . . and our feelings matter . . . ”

Bailing and rowing, a few of them chatter,

While traitors and liars have all the allure.




Plato, the sophists with philosophers opposed;

Now we have lobbyists and lawyers in droves.

And few unafraid of the difficult questions,

Indiff’rent to loot—truth, money, elections.

Not cinching their ties; feeling air tween their toes.




He’s “a good guy,” Trump said of his Flynn,

A liar and traitor—a good partner in sin.

He’s “a good guy,” Mr. Comey replied,

Understanding too well—they three were combined.

In dreams another “good” holds goodness within.




More than concerned about Trump I can only be,

Yet Comey’s picture of himself I did not believe.

He seemed to love playing, an audacious double game,

With private meetings and notes to snare and win acclaim.

Might we have a new government—more duplicity-free?




Hope woman from SF, from drawing by William Eaton, 2017The credit-card usurers and over-priced cablers,

The chiseling airlines, the landlords and bankers—

Government should temper business venality,

Nourish community and channel our bestiality—

Our agribusiness wastes, our greedy employers . . .




Comey, his police job wanted to keep,

Doing it well, his boss could have impeached!

And so fell he from the very tightrope

Millions with which struggle daily to cope.

It’s sad when gilded nets exceed their reach.


§ News: Former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee



Perhaps CNN’s producers are aware

Their news recalls Hollywood Squares

Journalists smiling in boxes

Like Rivers, Winters, Coxes.

No prizes or zingers, just squares.


Wikipedia on Hollywood Squares: An American panel game show in which contestants play tic-tac-toe to win cash and prizes. The series debuted in 1966 on NBC. The board for the game is a 3 × 3 vertical stack of open-faced cubes, each occupied by a celebrity. The stars are asked questions by the host, and the contestants judge the truth of their answers to gain squares in the right pattern to win the game. Among the celebrities who appeared regularly on the show over the years: Joan Rivers, Jonathan Winters and Wally Cox.



Woman, mouth open, all black, from drawing by William Eaton, 2017If US voters Russian hackers cleverly deleted,

Or our vote-counting machines these Russians impeded,

Then their miserable Vice and Presidential selections

Need serious revisiting—in more honest elections.

(And before the Earth and US interests are too soundly defeated!)


§ News: Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election. The government contractor who made this information public, Reality Leigh Winner, has, inter alia, a name worthy of its very own limerick. According to a preliminary CNN bit on “Who is Reality Winner?”—

Winner is an athlete who loves animals, her mother said, through tears. She also said her daughter wasn’t especially political and hadn’t ever praised past leakers like Edward Snowden to her. “She’s never ever given me any kind of indication that she was in favor of that at all,” her mother said. “I don’t know how to explain it.”

Reality faces up to 10 years in prison for leaking classified information.



When lim’ricking our melting world changes,

Post Trump, neither Pence, nor Ryan dangers,

Con capitalism creeps away—

We relate in whole new ways!

If still haunted by an extinct strangeness.



There are accidents for which our personal actions are at least in part to blame

And accidents of which we just happen to be victims.

Wrong place, wrong time, quite accidentally.

(Or are we paying a blood tax duly levied on oppressors?)

Civilians not killed or maimed shudder and feel somehow special.


§ News: van and knife attacks on London Bridge and nearby Borough Market



There once was a boy who liked reading

Instead of intravenous news feeding.

But then came the election

Like a viral infection,

And what’s left of his mind is receding.




To give the news nightly your views

Can give an insider the blues.

At first you’re so flattered,

To rule on what matters,

Till your words seem as made up as you.




Snip from (rotated) drawing of Maria (fish pose), 14 June 2017, ASL, modern dance night, based on charcoal drawing by William EatonGaia she whispered to me,

“I can take a few more degrees,

If this puts under water

All these human monsters

Who care less for their children than me.”


§ News: Trump withdraws US government from Paris climate agreement



If you of covfefe a limerick can’t make,

Your limericking license must be a fake.

This special code word,

More sad than absurd,

Means “shut the fuck up for God’s sake!”


§ News: Trump at 12:06 a.m. tweets to the world: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.”



It’s hard not to thank on a Memorial Day,

The many who for US gave their lives away.

But the dominant and the enlightened

Scorn violence (and they are frightened).

The cowards strew flowers and more speeches than pay?




For appearances, ads, conversation—

The sad game has a name—dissimulation.

Should I too honest be,

What will people think of me?

To be Trumped is the fate of the nation.




The Woman with the Apple on her Lap, from drawing by William Eaton, 2017A diff’rence ’tween Pences and me—

A tol’rance for watching TV?

But professors, pols and journalists

For all your gossip guess analysis

We give thanks with all this poetry!




We and the Germans first sowed this disorder,

Imposing ourselves on Russia’s wheat-bearing border.

Now their flunkey’s ours, the White House ransacking,

And they with misinformation continue attacking.

A new kind of war, and our defenses are lacking.


§ A new kind of limerick, too—or a grave departure from the form! At least it’s still somewhere between anapaestuous and dactylogical.



Russians, we know, tried to swing the election

And met many Trump allies with little discretion.

About all we don’t know—

The specific quid pro quo

And the limits to Ryan’s corruption.




No matter what, there’s breaking news

And ads for drugs you probably shouldn’t use.

Caring, kind words softly spoken?

The family circle that was to be unbroken?

Après le drugged nous—le déluge?


§ Note: The well-known saying of Louis XV, “Après moi, le deluge”—After me, all hell breaks loose; or, for all I care, all hell can break loose—is actually a deformation or reduction of what Louis’s lover, Madame de Pompadour, originally said: “Après nous, le deluge.” After us.



Still life, leaf and petals, from drawing by William Eaton, 2017The house is commodious

“Mr. President” melodious

Should the Pences move early

Many Trumps will be surly

And Russians no longer sui generous




Civilians murdered, a tornado disaster

Or, Bernie says, issues are what matter—

Inequality, student debt

Health care (lest we forget)—

A Pence’s goals might get lost in such clatter!




Renown is engendered, Anderson Cooper said,

By dissatisfactions racing to get ahead.

There’s no room at the top for

The well-loved and the not sore,

Those grand for their children and happy in bed.




“The Donald, I, have read your work,

Making my Mike a self-interested jerk

But he’s just a lackey,

And, in fact, he

Likes rubbing his nose in my dirt.”




Three women in black, tube-y, down jackets, from drawing by William Eaton, 2017For Democrats slower began to seem better

The White House in turmoil, the Congress well fettered

But what to do with the Pences?

Their PAC, their moving expenses?

Ere justice be denied first you must delay her?


§ News: Pence Takes Steps to Build War Chest as White House Stumbles—“Political action committee registered Wednesday with FEC / Neither Biden nor Cheney had active leadership PACs in office”



The twenty-fifth amendment states

The impeachment need hardly wait

Just a vote of the cabinet

Saying Trump’s too out of it

And the House Mr. Pence levitates




Pence prayed to the gods of Mueller:

“Please find a way to make me ruler.

To Russians and abortion

I prefer discrimination and donations

And guns in the laps of preschoolers.”


§ News: Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Is Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation. The name being pronounced « muller », perhaps Pence really wished to be made duller?



Obstruction of justice—impeachable offense

Very good for the friends of one Mr. Pence

Comey and Congress willing

The Oval Office they’ll be filling

Donald littering the forests of Smolensk




There once was a man named Pence

Whose life was held in suspense

If Congress would just act

History he’d redact

And the Koch brothers spring for the fence


§ A reader has proposed that this could be the Koch brothers not springing but “sprinting” for the fence. A nice image and more comic for lacking in verisimilitude?


— William EatonChair with scarf, Morgan Library, New York, from drawing by William Eaton, 2017


About the limericks (the what, how and why)

This undertaking began on 15 May 2017 when I e-mailed a friend, Walter Cummins, saying that Vice-President Mike Pence’s role in the current Washington catastrophe interested me particularly, and I had half a mind to write a poem, perhaps Yeatsian—“But I, being VP, have only my dreams . . . ” Walter responded with a limerick! The rest is history (and the daily news since then).

When, in late June, I took a summer break from the USA, CNN and MSNBC, the ambit of these short poems—which began in May with just the Vice-President—began to expand. And then, when in early July I ended up spending 10 days in a hôpital cardologique in a suburb of Lyon—my chest being cut open and four arteries rerouted—the limericking took yet another and more personal turn, coming closer to the goal of “my” journal Zeteo: to combine the personal, the political and the intellectual.

The illustrations are mine, not made to illustrate specific limericks, but, to add a little decoration. Many were snatched from my drawing files and then computer manipulated in various black-and-white ways. This has also been allowing me to explore the possibilities for illustrating my next book: Art, Sex, Politics, due out from Serving House later in 2017.



William Eaton is an essayist, aphorist, poet of a sort, and the Editor of the intellectual journal Zeteo. A collection of his essays, Surviving the Twenty-First Century, was published in 2015 by Serving House Books. Readers of the present piece might also be interested in Ameraiku, or in Trump, de Tocqueville, Democracy, Materialism, or This is my poem for Terminal B.

For non-Pence-related limericks (including those of yore), one might see

It’s hard to beat the late Leigh Mercer‘s mathematical limerick:

That is to say:

A dozen, a gross, and a score

Plus three times the square root of four

Divided by seven

Plus five times eleven

Is nine squared and not a bit more.

Click for pdf of ALL the limericks to date

The Limericks

Pence . . . Trump . . . Mueller . . . Capitalism . . . Injustice . . . Trump . . . Illness . . . Poetry . . . Animals . . . Capitalism . . . the News . . . First Impressions . . . What will the future hold? . . .


  1. The Lord is in the sea and sky; The Lord is in the rose and root; The Lord is in my shirt and tie, My dentist and my either boot; The Lord is in the earth and air— In short the Lord is everywhere.

    For if He were not everywhere, He could not then look out for us, And if He were not everywhere, He would not be ubiquitous, And that—but then you know as well As I, that is unthinkaa-bel…

    From *Collected Poems* by Samuel Hoffenstein

    On Tue, May 23, 2017 at 1:18 PM, montaigbakhtinian wrote:

    > William Eaton posted: “More may be added in the days ahead! Below is the > collection to date. Renown is engendered, Anderson Cooper said By > dissatisfaction racing to get ahead There’s no room at the top for The well > loved and the not sore Those grand for their chil” >

  2. I like the last one best. The image of the Koch brothers sprinting for the fence is very appealing!

Leave a Reply to Limerick 57—à propos de Macron & the capitalist dance – montaigbakhtinian Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.