Welcome to the fourth installment of the limerick project—which began in May 2017 with Pence, Trump and Comey. This part takes the collection from September 4, 2017 to . . . ?, with a new poem to be added daily. Part I (Pence, Trump, Mueller, Capitalism) covers May 16, 2017 until July 1. Part II (Injustice, Trump, Illness, Poetry): July 2 to August 12. Part III (Animals, Capitalism, the News, First Impressions): July 2 to September 3. And check out two cousins: Oh, say, can you see . . . and The only show left in town.
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.
Il n’y a qu’un homme qui ait le droit d’être anarchiste : moi, le Poète, puisque, seul, je fabrique un produit dont la Société ne veut pas, en échange duquel elle ne me donne pas de quoi vivre. — Henri de Régnier, Les Cahier inédits 1887-1936. (There is only one person who has the right to be an anarchist, and that is I, the Poet. Because I alone supply the product for which society has no use, and in exchange for which it does not provide me enough to live on.)
If this day or tomorrow might be my last,
In what activities should I the time pass?
After giving my son one last kiss,
About 60+ years quickly reminisce?
Or I might just savor one almond’s taste,
So this very last day goes not to waste,
I’ll finally throw out my youthful journals!
Or yell at a man for missing the urinal?
Qu’une baronne (somewhat older) sought a lover
Her door she opened sans chemise
And the writer was tellement pleased
Instead of love he made a novel (with a cover).
Liberally adapting a comment made by Philippe Labro during a recent visit to la Maison Française at New York University, a comment relating to the backstory of his early novel Un début à Paris.
“If we’re not getting a wall, I’d prefer President Pence.”
“But not when Trump can be enjoyed at Ryan’ expense!
Not when he’s in bed with Schumer and Pelosi,
And the venal’s prospects don’t look so rosy.”
“But a magnanimous Trump just doesn’t make sense!”
First line is from an Ann Coulter tweet on September 14, 2017. For more, including Trump’s backsliding, one might see a Fox News Insider story, Coulter: ‘If We’re Not Getting a Wall, I’d Prefer President Pence’, which begins:
President Donald Trump on Thursday said he is working with Democratic leaders on a plan to protect illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” and he said he won’t insist on funding the border wall as part of it.
Coulter’s pro-Pence tweet was apparently broadcast at 8:48 a.m. Previously, at 7:05: “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?”
Btw: Poor Mike Pence. This whole limerick project began with thoughts of him, his ambitions and fate, and yet he hasn’t appeared in any of the limericks since #21. I am reminded of Tom Lehrer’s song about another Vice-President, Hubert Humphrey. The penultimate verse:
Whatever became of you, Hubert?
We miss you, so tell us, please:
Are you sad? Are you cross?
Are you gathering moss
While you wait for the boss to sneeze?
From meetings the general would bar Omarosa
Her cv’s more implants than’er ponderosas
But she was a star of reality TV
Was voted as evil as evil could be
She’s more than earned a spot on Donald’s sofa
From New White House Chief of Staff Has an Enforcer, New York Times: Kirstjen Nielsen—John Kelly’s (the general’s) longtime aide—
is also responsible for keeping Mr. Kelly’s no-fly list of aides he deems to be unfit to attend serious meetings, the most prominent of whom is Omarosa Manigault, the former Apprentice star with an ill-defined job and a penchant for dropping into meetings where she was not invited.
Edited excerpts from Wikipedia’s article on Omarosa, consulted September 14, 2017:
Omarosé Onée Manigault, often referred to simply as Omarosa, was a member of President-elect Trump’s transition team. In January she was named Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison. In years past she had been a Democrat and had worked in the office of Vice President Al Gore. In her first interview after being named to the Trump White House she told the TV-news personality Megyn Kelly that she was a “Trumplican” and hoped more African Americans would follow her lead.
Omarosa gained fame as a contestant on the first season of Donald Trump’s original American version of The Apprentice. She later returned for the television series sequel, Celebrity Apprentice, and appeared on numerous other reality television shows. TV Guide included her in its 2013 list of the 60 Nastiest TV Villains of All Time. [Distinguished company, as the list includes J.R. Ewing, Victoria Grayson, Newman, Wile E. Coyote, Alexis Colby, and Al Capone.]
[T]oute ceste fricassée que je barbouille ici n’est qu’un registre des essais de ma vie, qui est, pour l’interne santé, exemplaire assez, à prendre l’instruction à contrepoil. (All the slop that I give out here is just a record of my experiences—in a life that, as regards internal soundness, has been exemplary enough—with resisting advice.) — Michel de Montaigne, “De l’expérience”
Against my will?
I might have just taken pills?
The doctors were bent on rewiring my heart
Which had thought to die in peace
And not by high-tech medicine be policed.
And yet, far from my son was I ready to depart?
And so intubated in intensive care?
Confess: To assert my will I did not dare.
Expertise the experts’ ends too well serves,
And each of us his half-truths deserves.
Then there’s the matter of the nuclear codes
In the hands of a President who confidence erodes
But wars and pollution have long shown
Death and destruction: humanity’s capstone
With toxic leaders and technology we routinely reload
As I have been re-reading Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days, a brief excerpt from one of the many strong entries, “A Night Battle Over A Week Since,” from May 12, 1863:
The night was very pleasant, at times the moon shining out full and clear, all Nature so calm in itself, the early summer grass so rich, and foliage of the trees—yet there the battle raging, and many good fellows lying helpless, with new accessions to them, and every minute amid the rattle of muskets and crash of cannon, (for there was an artillery contest too,) the red life-blood oozing out from heads or trunks or limbs upon that green and dew-cool grass. Patches of the woods take fire, and several of the wounded, unable to move, are consumed—quite large spaces are swept over, burning the dead also . . .
Then the camps of the wounded—O heavens, what scene is this?—is this indeed humanity—these butchers’ shambles? There are several of them. There they lie, in the largest, in an open space in the woods, from 200 to 300 poor fellows—the groans and screams—the odor of blood, mixed with the fresh scent of the night, the grass, the trees—that slaughter-house!
Two Epipremnum a shower curtain rod shared
Until their untangling a lonely bather dared.
The Pothos divorced soon began to mope.
They could not cry, nor could they hope.
Showering alone leaves us clean but impaired.
The conclusion of disaster’s poems
Hurricane, earthquake, election, divorce
The walls of the insecure v. destructive force
Over the debris of human lives cameras roam
This after Harvey, Irma, and the earthquake in Mexico, to say nothing of the floods in South Asia which have apparently affected 40 million people, killing at least 1,200 of them. A whole ’nother limerick might be written about the US media and hurricanes. Prior to landfall, desperate for engaging footage, the news networks make stars of the people who, resisting the appeals or orders of government officials, have decided to ride out the storm in their homes. And then, when the storm hits, should it prove less destructive than advertised, there is that feeling of disappointment.
Trump’s hair brush asked him, “Are you having fun?
Or do you wish this election you had not won?”
“Well, it does seem a President never stops being tried.
Into my life and my friends, all my actions they pry.”
“Before you were a criminal, and now you feel like one?”
The squirrel kept posing and for a quite reasonable rate,
But the drawing once done, she was less naked than irate.
To almonds with salt she’d become so accustomed—
Curvy haunches, bushy tail—no longer so winsome?
Inhumanely, however, there’s no law suit (to date);
The artist, if disconcerted, has been able to escape.
Based on personal experience.
Our know-how’s incredible; just a few things we lack
The list we know well; our solutions: zero
Insufficient means our technology to control
A peculiar incapacity to not massacre our own
Just a matter of time till the next nuclear attack
On a hill in Geneva, there is a seat high and green
With a view of the Alps, the city and its fountain.
For change there can be snow, or mist, clouds and light.
While here in Manhattan facades indurate govern our sight
And no more than in the Alps can other worlds have been.
This “limerick,” inter alia, recalls an idea of earlier days: that this project might include an exploration of possible variations on a poetic form (in this case, the limerick). Other examples: 113, below or 116, 117 and 122 above; and 111 and 99 from Part III; and 79, 60, 57 and 56 from Part II; and 38, 30 and 20 from Part I.
Busy shopping a mother – no comfort – infant bereft.
She has needs, too. Not by her child will she be oppressed.
She’s teaching, I suppose, life’s war of the wills,
Respect for the pushers of strollers, the payers of bills.
But long before shopping – even the rich need others’ largesse.
Would that this limerick could do a little more than it seems able to. There is the Winnicottian idea that infants, in a first stage, need to be able to depend absolutely on their caregivers and to be held securely, affectionately, by them, and not be asked to satisfy any parental needs, practical or psychological. Each child needs to feel, at first, that she or he is the center of the universe.
More in the limerick’s shadows, however, is a related political observation: some adults who in infancy depended absolutely on others’ care now seek to deny care to those, children and adults, who need food, shelter and useful training. And this denial—though justified as being for the good of the needy or of the society more generally—seems deeply connected to a desire to deny our own infant dependency. This is one of the sad, sick parts of the American myth of our rugged individualism. It blocks our recognizing or cherishing how for our development we have depended—however savagely, selfishly—on one another. And hardly least the rich on the labor of the poor (or enslaved).
About Trump and related infirmities much is being said—
As before his fingers approached buttons for warheads
And before he could pardon his criminal friends
And erase progressive policies with the stroke of a pen
And not help the working classes but their bitterness spread—
As before destructive forces elected him President
Of a swamp we might call crazed, criminal, incompetent?
Which, with so many lying in it, has become our feculent bed.
And Jill for Jill will elbow Jack for Jack
And there will be classes to take!
And mornings to hate
The warmth of the sun fading on our backs
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 cardiologique 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. By mid-July I was being “re-adapted” in Geneva, Switzerland, returning home to New York in mid-August.
The illustrations are mine, not made to illustrate specific limericks, but, to add a little decoration. Several of the drawings in this Part II are from a new series done in the dark—without being able to see what I was doing—a technique adapted from Cy Twombly. Such drawings may be used to illustrate 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.
Click for pdf of ALL the limericks to date