POTUS Interruptus

Donald J. Trump is often very good. What he is great at is being Donald Trump—
the only one we will ever have. When he dies, any outpouring of affection
will come about because the American people feel that he remains in some
indefinable way close to them, one of their own—just a working-class slob
at heart who has never forgotten where he came from.

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
DONALD TRUMP, I came unglued. All along, what we were consuming wasn’t just
this or that great or perhaps even obnoxious Tweet, but an idea of the President
as himself: his charm, his boldness, and his disarming wit.

Trump has a striking talent for shaping luck or forcing chance, and for finding
the right other half just in the nick of time: there’s Ivana, his first wife,
co-author Tony Schwartz, VP Mike Pence, and his assistant Kellyanne Conway.
On one hand, the nerveless psychological chess master; on the other, a man
crippled by doubt or elated by his personal rapport with foreign leaders.

The interview went well. We started off in the penthouse at Trump Tower
but said goodbye at Grand Central Station where the former President’s driver
dropped me off. The now-empty Times Building down the street
prominently displayed an enormous for sale sign. My conclusion is this: if Trump
smoked Gauloises and drank white wine, New Yorkers would love 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.

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 twisted force field of ego, pure will and a fantastic show-off. What is there
left to unearth? Truth be told, you could go as mad as a pampered real estate
mogul trying to sift through and dissect all of his speeches.

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 film that wasn’t
going to be made, adapted from a memoir he is almost 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 Donald in Hello Dolly! He even looks
like Carol Channing. The first time we met he was chasing
the zeitgeist. And then there were those rumors of his affair with Kanye
West. I keep thinking: is this the kind of thing Trump himself would
sit and listen to and get excited by? Wouldn’t he have preferred Kardashian?

I find myself wondering, as I 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 he essentially, now, just imitating
his own brand, because that’s what you do after a while, isn’t it? Watching
Trump selling himself to the world is depressing. Think of Madonna.

My half of this interview for the New Yorker mostly consists of me grilling him
on Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Hassan Rouhani, and 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. He just sounds like any other President
with products to hock. Obama’s signature line of chocolate chip cookies stands out.

But Trump is something else. He still looks the part, even when what he is wearing
is as plain as what everyone else has on. In fact, his looks are positively otherworldly:
his wig is not merely heavy-handed appliqué, it is a masquerade with echoes
of times gone by, and maybe some unimaginable future. How much the former
President is really here at all remains to be seen. His presidential library is empty.

Bluff City

An idle tree wants cutting down.
If we apply the rules of thermo-
dynamics, growing radishes in one’s
back yard makes no sense. Let
it be raspberries on prickly bushes,
not dirty little roots in the ground.

This is a treatise on good sense.
Like Swift’s argument in favor of eating
children, mine is a defense of watching
too much TV. Let’s distribute footballs
to the redskins; let’s send the whites back
to Europe.

I once knew a fat chick named
Trish whose boyfriend knocked all
my teeth out. My braces held them
in place as the blood ran out of my mouth.
Even at 16, young men in the South
fight over women’s breasts; only in my
day, we called them tits.

Peaches bruise easily in the heat.
I wouldn’t leave the pool gate open
at mid-summer. The neighbors might
walk in on an afternoon orgy. One
forfeits one’s right to privacy when
one makes oneself available.
I wouldn’t advise working for a company
that withholds anything, least of all
one’s lunch money.

Pecan pie is overrated, like a lot of
Southern dishes. Half of sales go
to tourists who haven’t a clue.
They’d buy a bottle of molasses
with a ribbon tied around its neck.
Hell, they’d go down on a dick painted
red. Most tourists are out and out liars,
like first-time home buyers and
presidential candidates.

The squealing never stops.
There’s a lot of commotion.
Our president’s been caught with his pants
down; our priests have stopped smoking.
My best friend built a yurt with a marble floor
and a padded cell for throwing tantrums.

The transformation is now complete.
The destroyers are triumphant; the victims,
silent; and the observers, transfixed. Is it
time for advancement or retreat?
I’d say, where are the people of color?
That’s always the question; or that’s the always
question.

Rose bushes will snag. They’ll catch if you don’t
watch it. It’s not just your stockings that’ll run.
Roses draw blood. I’d get to work, and while
you’re at it, prune the damned bird of paradise.
After that, you can head for the basement.
When all the work is done, you can lay your
head down in the oven.

Different strokes for different folks;
we are all part of this tale.
For reasons that cannot be easily
explained, this author is distraught.

August Instead

The man waving is not drowning, don’t listen to a word she says.
His back is to you, but he is not walking away,
Only praying—in the middle of the day!
Offer him something so he’ll keep away.

Her friend hangs out at the tennis courts, looking for a cup of coffee
And a spot of love; her T-shirt says BITE MY ASS in red letters.
She holds court at the end of her rope
And sings praise our Lord from her bed.

The rain—in Spain, or have you heard this one before?
Miss Grove’s the one who trudged clear across her home
State to reach Jefferson, that moldy town in Mississippi in search
Of the man who knocked her up and fled.

So sleeveless Joe—known in town as Christmas—lives on a woman’s
Property but comes to see his obligations as a Burden.
If only Miss Joanna would control herself and stay indoors.
Their ruckus is enough to scatter squirrels and rouse the owls to hoot.

Everyone, stay indoors, they say. This Burden snaps and invites
Trouble; woe to he who takes the bait as Christmas does.
He whom Miss Grove once met and took that night to bed disappears.
He now spends his time deciding how best to die.

The inflamed hussy’s lust has burned out. She’s ready to go.
The flames of Christmas reach for the stars and flare.
His Burden goes up but is he to blame?
He will lose himself in the quick of flight.

That fugitive kind! Bloodhounds, trees, and violence galore:
How romantic! Grimm reaps the object Joe once loaned
to women. Onto Hightower’s kitchen table outpours
the reason for the mystery and misery of said Joe Christmas.

They bring back the story of a hotel window in Memphis.
Memory serves where the story falls apart.
One Joe flees while the other gets caught.
She makes it across state lines, with her newborn, into Tennessee.

The rain in Spain—you’ve heard this one in a different key.
He’s the man from Alabama with a banjo.
Hold my hand as we sing along—
The man from Alabama with a bandage on his knee.

Jews, Christians, Muslims, what nonsense!—his name is Christmas!
Christ was born but not in Jefferson Parish, not in Faulkner country.
Fools are fooled into thinking they’ll get away.
In this part of the country birds don’t sing; but mock.

Shelter in Place

This is the advice one needs.
After a life of turmoil and defeat,
it’s best to stay indoors. Hide. Place your head
between your knees. They’ve been telling
us this for years, but I never listened.
I was too busy trying to take over.

Genghis Khan with a phone I was called; now,
all I wish is to get along. I just want to be free.
Don’t involve me. I’d just as well not come, thanks.
I’m content to stay, lay back, kick it. Let the world go by,
along with the riff raff. My God, what a sight. My mother
was right not to let me play with the neighbors.

What happened to the innocence? We were kind, don’t let them
tell you otherwise. These are lies. We were true blue. And
sweet, I kid you not. We were John Wayne’s children. We were
Frankenstein’s playmates. We made cakes with our mothers.
We even ate mommy’s lipstick. We sipped grandma’s elderberry
wine, but I’ll tell you this, we never took the Lord’s name in vain.

We hated our gym teacher, but we never called him a mother fucker.
It never crossed our minds. I can remember the first day that word
was introduced to the American people, the very first day it was
used in public. We said golly, gosh or darn, not shit. We said we were
sorry and bent over to bare our bottoms. We took our punishment
like a man. We didn’t sue. We didn’t curse. We never pursed our lips.

Now we have to hide. The news reporter announced that all the world’s
troubles could be traced back to us, yes, that means, you and me. The
social justice warriors, once known as scavengers and marauders, are
on the hunt; they’ve been trained in name-calling, finger-pointing, and
manufacturing nerve gas. Our well-wishers have fled the country.
They’re living in Canada with the Eskimo. They kill seal and eat caribou.

We’ll have to keep the lights out. Our teacher has piled the chairs against
the door. She’s asked the gunman if he would please let us live. He said,
“Shut the fuck up.” He’s a nervous wreck. His eyes are glazed over and he
foams at the mouth. He called our dear teacher a stupid cunt. “Open up!”
He’s determined to kill us all. He wants to make the world a better place.
He’s fighting for justice. “We are the world now,” he says, “not you.”

High Noon at the O.K. Corral

It can’t be denied, this phenomenon.
My own mother dreams of bedding Obama,
Clinton, too, when he held office. She loves them.
She foams at the mouth when she hears them criticized.
She gulps air and stares bug-eyed.

It’s not a political affiliation. It’s cultish and emotional,
the worship of a student for a beloved teacher,
bobby soxers fainting in the auditorium, fans at a ballgame,
or soccer fanatics. There’s no proper distance,
no adult wisdom. Just childish worship.

It’s the maddened love for a cult leader; fat women
exposing their heaving breasts. Boys panting.
It’s what serial killers want from men and women
—their pleas before death, begging, total obedience.
It’s what Manson got from his sick followers: adoration.

What in the world is happening? Has the U.S. president
become nothing more than a centerfold? If so, how
did we come to this? Men and women once
clambered to shake a president’s hand; now they
dream of sleeping with him in the Lincoln Bedroom.

The women who fought for women’s suffrage
didn’t want to sleep with Woodrow Wilson.
Did American women have fantasies of fucking Teddy
(Roosevelt, not Kennedy)? Little children may have
wanted a teddy bear, but did women before ever
dream of taking the president to bed?

Where is this heading? If we don’t grow up and grow up fast,
the next president will treat us all like children;
we’ll be told when to come in off the street; we’ll be sent
to bed without our supper. If we don’t grow up,
and grow up fast, the president will give this country
a reason to cry, and it won’t be pretty.

Sounds like the country is readying for the O.K. Corral
at High Noon. It’s either the ALT-Right OR the ALT-Left
to the rescue. Some profess to like the black philosopher,
Cornel West. Others, Louis Farrakhan. Then there’s
Richard Spencer and Milo who for some always sound right.

Bunny Mellon gave millions to John Edwards because of his kisser.
Funny Bunny barely flinched when pretty boy fizzled.
Many women have fantasies of going to bed with Clinton;
some would prefer Hillary. Should a top think tank survey
the American people on the nature of this depravity?

Why not strip them and put them in a centerfold,
like one of those sexy English rowing teams?
Their private parts covered in whipped cream?
Instead of voting hope and change, we’ll celebrate
presidential chests and buttocks. America needs to take a poll,
conduct a survey of our most recent proclivities.

Did French women want to sleep with Charles de Gaulle?
What of Gorbachev or Mandela? Our once great Republic
is beginning to rupture, resembling something once
familiar to men like Tacitus and the Roman Emperor.
Isn’t it time to establish a blue-ribbon committee headed
by Henry Kissinger—before he kicks the bucket?